Hurricane Irma smacked Miami Beach’s shoreline with enough wind and rain to reshape some of the water’s edge, including washing away chunks of sand from a recently completed $11.5 million beach widening project.
In many places, the sand blew off the beach and into the dunes separating oceanfront condos and hotels from the beach. In some places, the sand noticeably thinned out during the storm, leaving a narrower beach.
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Margarita Wells, the Beach’s environmental director, told the Miami Herald the impacts highlight the importance of maintaining the city’s dunes and shoreline.
“Our dunes did a fantastic job in capturing our sand,” she said, adding that wide beaches and robust dunes help slow storm surge from washing onto upland beachfront properties.
At 46th and 54th streets, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an $11.5 million renourishment project earlier this year to widen the beach. Irma claimed chunks of that new sand, though it is still unclear precisely how much and whether the city will request an emergency renourishment.
Wells said beefing up the shore through renourishment is necessary to prevent erosion further inland, where it can affect condos and hotels. The widening of the beach is intended to provide more protection from storm surge and wind in the event of tropical weather.
Even though some of that newer sand is gone now, it served its purpose.
“It did its job to prevent further erosion on upland properties,” Wells said.
Beach officials did a visual inspection of the dunes and shore, but Miami-Dade County handles the scientific analysis to quantify the impacts. The assessment is still ongoing.