Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

Hurricane Sandy storm damage in Buzzards Bay and Falmouth, MA 29-30 October 2012

by Joe Costa

Radar image of Hurricane Sandy at about the time of landfall.

Radar image of Hurricane Sandy shortly before the time of landfall in southern New Jersey 17:30 29 October 2012.

WHOI's real-time tidal gauge and air pressure data as Hurricane Sandy passed through New England.

WHOI's real-time tidal gauge and air pressure data as Hurricane Sandy passed through New England. Click on the graph to enlarge it.

NOAA BZBM3 Hydrograph for Woods Hole.

NOAA BZBM3 Hydrograph for Woods Hole. The actual high water level of 5.8 ft was very close the predicted elevation of 5.6 ft (as forecasted 24 hrs earlier). Click on the graph to enlarge it. Compare this graph to the same one for the April 2007 Nor'easter.

Air pressure plotted against wind speed.

Air pressure plotted against wind speed. Click on the graph to enlarge it.

While Buzzards Bay watershed towns were not devastated by Hurricane Sandy in the same way as New York and New Jersey, some areas did experience coastal erosion more severe than the damage in our area caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and the April 2007 Nor'easter. Because of the persistent easterly winds for much of the storm, most of Buzzards Bay was little affected by the storm, particularly along the coasts of Bourne and Falmouth on Buzzards Bay. It appears that the most severe damage from this storm among Buzzards Bay watershed communities occurred on the south side of Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound), and on the south coast of Westport (although there was appreciable flooding reported up the East ands West Branch of the Westport River). Cities and towns took the usual precautions in advance of the storms, and the City of New Bedford closed the Hurricane Barriers at 5 AM on October 29, and did not reopen them until sometime on October 30.

A good predictor of likely storm impacts is the maximum tidal elevation during the storm. The maximum tidal elevation in Woods Hole for Hurricane Sandy was 5.8 ft (at NOAA station BZBM3), which exceeded tidal levels at this station for both the April 2007 Nor'easter (4.98 ft), and the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene (4.61 ft). Of course other factors such as wind direction and persistence of sustained winds at the time of the highest tide are especially important in defining the extent of coastal erosion and flooding, so some areas were more affected by this storm, and other areas lest affected than the previous two notable storms.

On this page we show some pictures from the south coast of Falmouth during the afternoon of Monday the 29th and after the storm on the 30th. Please also watch this video of Surf Drive Beach parking lot 13:45 October 29
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It is worth noting that Falmouth is at the confluence of two tidal regimes. The Buzzards Bay side of Falmouth, through Woods Hole to Nobska Point coincides with the Newport , RI tide table, whereas Falmouth Heights on eastward on Vineyard Sound coincide with the Boston Tide table, and are about three hours later. On the 29th, high tide (the lower semi-diurnal high) was at 8:00 AM in Woods Hole, whereas high tide along East Falmouth was at 11:15 AM. These competing tidal regimes also explain why the normal tidal range along surf drive, only a few feet, is one of the lowest in the region.

Sea wall near Great Pond bridge on Menauhant Rd in Falmouth (Vineyard Sound side)
Sea wall near Great Pond bridge on Menauhant Rd in Falmouth after storm

Top: Seawall east of Great Pond bridge on Menauhant Rd in Falmouth (Vineyard Sound side) at 1:45 on 29 October. Orange painted sidewalk block were uplifted by Tropical Storm Irene and were not yet repaired when Hurricane Sandy struck. Bottom: same site October 30 at about 8:30 AM. Photo credits: Joe Costa

Little Pond entrance channel.

The entrance channel to Little Pond was filled in because of Hurricane Sandy. This channel is prone to filling, even with less storms and needs frequent maintenance. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Surf Drive in Falmouth Over washed.
Lone beach house on Surf Drive.

This picture shows the lone beach house Hurricane Bob survivor at the southern end of Surf drive (during (top) and after the storm (bottom). These photos illustrate several points. First, the small dunes constructed by the town were all washed away. During the night, the town bulldozed sand off the road creating new "dunes" that must be planted. Second, in the most eroded area, the road was undercut and will need repairs. Larger created dunes along the Sound did survive and offered protection to roads and homes. Click the photos to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Surf Drive in Falmouth Over washed #2.
Surf Drive in Falmouth Over washed #2.

Two different views of Surf Drive in Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound) over washed (Top: near Elm St. during the storm, Bottom: A flooded impassable area by the beachfront cottages 7:45 AM the morning after). Photo credit: Joe Costa

Salt Pond entrance on Surf Drive in Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound) over washed. Salt Pond entrance on Surf Drive in Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound) over washed.

Salt Pond entrance on Surf Drive in Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound). Left: During the storm, the road was over washed with some erosion along road bank. Right: The small dunes across the street were washed away; during the night, the DPW plowed the sand off the road into piles of sand that will be replanted with dune vegetation. Note also the backside of the road was undercut and collapsing, and the channel across the road has filled in (not shown). This photo also shows one of nearly two dozen people observed collecting scallops and quahogs washed up on the beaches after the storm. The raised platform was to a structure that was never rebuilt Hurricane Bob destroyed it in 1991. Click the photos to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Salt Pond entrance on Surf Drive in Falmouth (on Vineyard Sound) over washed.

The same Salt Pond entrance on Surf Drive the day of the storm looking inland. Click the photo to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Patriots Boats Crab Shack decking being undermined by waves. Patriots Boats Crab Shack decking being undermined by waves #2.

Two views of the Patriots Boats Crab Shack on Clinton Avenue in Falmouth showing decking being undermined by waves During the storm on the 29th. The next day, the damage was observed to be limited to the two dislodged planks. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Jewelers Ave East Falmouth, during and after the storm

Jewelers Ave East Falmouth, during and after the storm. About 12-18 inches of sand was piled onto the road. Click the photo to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Created dunes in the parking lot at the Menauhant Rd. Town Beach.

Erosion of created dunes in the parking lot at the Menauhant Road Town Beach. The Town of Falmouth DPW and Beach Committee have undertaken a considerable effort to build and plant dunes along town beaches and roads. While some residents initially complained about the dunes blocking views of the ocean, the strategy has paid big dividends in keeping over wash out of the parking lots and roads. About half the width of these dunes eroded away. Click the photo to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa

Damage to the Falmouth Shining Sea Bike Path near the Trunk River.

Damage to the Falmouth Shining Sea Bike Path near the Trunk River. Click the photo to enlarge. Photo credit: Joe Costa


Links

NSTAR Power Outage Map


Google Hurricane Sandy Crisis Maps