Hurricane Sandy creates 'little beach' in Maryland

2:59 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
A man fishes on the newly formed strip of beach south of the Inlet rock jetty in Ocean City, Md., during low tide Monday. Before Hurricane Sandy, water reached high onto the rocks. (Photo: LAURA EMMONS/THE DAILY TIMES)
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OCEAN CITY, Md. - Nearly 80 years after a major storm created the Ocean City Inlet, another weather event has made its mark, albeit not nearly as dramatically.

Beside the inlet's rock jetty, there are waves lapping at the side of a small beach, one that did not exist before Superstorm Sandy.

The Oct. 30 storm dumped tons of sand up the middle of the inlet and blanketed half of the massive, craggy rip-rap in sediment. It also dropped a sandbar at the mouth of the inlet, where modest whitecaps broke the surface.

At low tide Monday, which came at 12:20 p.m., the beach was about 20-25 feet wide and 50 yards long. Crabs already were scuttling across it, and sea gulls were coming in for a landing.

"It's sort of a shock when you go out there," said Terry McGean, city engineer for the town of Ocean City. "It's a nice reminder of what Mother Nature can do."

McGean said littoral drift is to blame for "our new little beach."

Imagine an underwater river of sand migrating from north to south, parallel to the coast: that's called littoral drift, and it's what moves sand around the coastline. At the inlet, the rock jetty acts as a dam in the face of littoral drift, making a wide beach for Ocean City but starving Assateague Island of sand for its shoreline.

During Sandy, Ocean City was on the backside of the storm, getting southwest winds, according to McGean.

"It literally reversed the littoral drift, and two things happened: We lost beach from the inlet parking lot, which is rare, and that jetty acted like a dam, only on the south side. You had sand that went south to north and got trapped on the south side of the jetty," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will survey the inlet to see what happened. If it presents a navigational problem, he expects the Corps will dredge. And, over time, this petite beach will erode, but it's hard to tell how long that will take.

"Hopefully, we don't have to put a lifeguard out there. The current out there is very dangerous," McGean said.

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