Erosion From Coastal Storm Threatens Topsail Beach

Posted May 9, 2007
Updated May 10, 2007

— Two days of stiff winds and high waves clawed at the North Carolina coast this week, eroding as much as 20 feet of the beach in places, officials said.

By Wednesday, the system that battered the coast had developed into Subtropical Storm Andrea. Sustained winds of 46 mph were recorded off the coast of Georgia as the system crawled in a south-southwesterly direction toward Florida.

The low-pressure system churned off the Outer Banks on Monday and Tuesday, creating waves as high as 40 feet and wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph.

"The winds just pounded the coast over the past 48 hours," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Topsail Beach Town Manager Jim Carter said as much as 20 feet of beach has been washed away. Sand fences were left in splinters, and dunes were carved out next to houses, he said.

"In some areas, we're precariously thin with what's left," Carter said. "We're going to be open for business. I don't want to be overdramatic about it. The beaches will be fine this summer, but we are concerned about the dune structure."

Water didn't breach any dunes to damage beachfront homes, but 70 homes are "imminently threatened," meaning the dune line is within 20 feet of their foundations, he said.

John Gresham, who has lived at Topsail Beach for 20 years, said he has never seen the island's dunes eroded so much so early in the year.

"I hate to lose the sand, but that's what we have pilings under the house for, so the water can come and go," said Gresham, who spent much of Wednesday repairing his boardwalk to the beach. "We don't sweat the small stuff."

The heavy erosion puts the coast at a disadvantage with three weeks left until the start of the 2008 hurricane season, Carter said.

"We felt pretty good going into the hurricane season that our dunes were in fairly good shape. But as it stands (Wednesday), a lot of that has disappeared," he said.

Topsail Beach has been planning its own beach renourishment project because federal funds have been scarce in recent years for a Army Corps of Engineers program. Carter said the town efforts are still at least a year away, however.

"Hopefully, we can get back on the beach and repair the dunes that were most significantly hit," he said.

A $25,000 emergency renourishment program, which officials hope to finish by June 1, will involve bulldozers' scraping sand off the beaches at low tide to rebuild the dunes.


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  • bricejohnson May 10, 2007

    excellent point G-man. . .

  • Juliett May 10, 2007

    "Private and university forecasters have predicted that the 2007 season will be especially active, producing up to 17 tropical storms and hurricanes"

  • vette212 May 10, 2007

    A vast majority of the beachs are blocked by private property so let them pay the tab.

    Surfs Up. By the way, I am a Surfer.

    Pray for Surf.

  • Doctor Dataclerk May 10, 2007

    "The foolish man built his house upon the sand...and the rain came pouring down...." I'm already taxed to death (and will be taxed after death), and am sick of paying for these types of projects as a tax payer. The town will not foot the bill based on property taxes paid, the Corps of Engineers (tax dollars from all of us) will pay 80-90% of the tab. Build your house on a hill away from the coastline, stop whinning, and stop sending me the bill.

  • chargernut69 May 10, 2007

    stop wasting taxpayer money for beach maintenance! If the sand washes away -- TOO BAD!

    Tell these rich people to move inland... common sense tells you not to build a million dollar house on shifting sand. Once again, the driving force in America is the "Almighty Dollar". USA - the land of GREED!

  • hottub27607 May 10, 2007


  • Z Man May 10, 2007

    On the news last night the town manager said the town will pay to replenish the beaches. Since the town gets its money from the million dollar plus home owners, there's no skin off the general taxpayers back. And they better keep it that way as I'm not responsible for their beaches! That's right, not our beaches, their beaches. A vast majority of the beachs are blocked by private property so let them pay the tab.

  • pmelson May 10, 2007

    The island was a beautiful place till people were allowed to build where they should have not built being a tax payer STOP spending my taxes on rebuilding progerty the idiots who built need to foot their own bill. They should also be responsible for building up the shoreline they destroyed.

  • Wakenative May 10, 2007

    As I was saying, Those little towns all have something in common, higher ground on the back side of the island with plenty of area and some maritime forest shelter, and they were small villages with a few tens of families. The larger coastal cities of the same time were Southport and Wilmington, Morehead City and Beaufort, all built on the mainland. I think they should prevent anymore development on the islands, let them all go back to a natural state, and ferry anyone who wants to spend time out on the barrier island, somewhat like Ocracoke Island. They don't call them "barrier" for nothing. Besides, there will always be a shore, its the location of it that changes.

  • Wakenative May 10, 2007

    We definitely should NOT be paying for any type of reconstruction for these people. They come in, build these multi-million dollar homes on beachfront, rent them out to pay for the mortgage, a storm comes in wipes them out, then they collect the insurance money and sell it to the next person standing in line, laughing all the way to the bank. Why in God's name would the insurance companies insure these things that might have a life span of ten years if they're lucky! I guess insurance CEO's like spending time on the beach. Think back to the early part of the century and before, most of the barrier islands were low lying sand islands with little there except for the few larger ones where there were small villages. Where were those? Ocracoke, Portsmouth, Hatteras village, Kitty Hawk, and Colington. Those little towns all have something in common, higher ground on the back side of the island with plenty of area and some maritime forest shelter, and they were small villages with a f