Hurricane Dorian could cause major erosion from Florida to North Carolina, report says

A report by U.S. Geographic Survey coastal change experts warns that 80 percent of the beaches from Florida to North Carolina could suffer beach and dune erosion caused by Hurricane Dorian’s strong waves and storm surges.

Based on the storm’s projected path as of 8 a.m. Monday, Georgia and South Carolina will fare the worst, with 100 percent of their beaches facing some level of dune erosion.

Roughly 85 percent of Florida’s beaches and 60 percent of North Carolina’s beaches will also suffer some level of erosion.

Overwash — which happens when waves and surge reach higher than the top of existing dunes, carrying away large amounts of land — is currently predicted for 28 percent of all beaches from Florida to North Carolina.

Inundation, the most severe of all hurricane effects to coastal areas, is forecast for 9 percent of Georgia and North Carolina beaches.

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The USGS bases its report by combining official forecasts by the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration models, then overlays its own data over the combined forecasts.

“When hurricanes move slowly and remain at sea for long periods of time, they tend to build up large storm waves,” said research oceanographer Kara Doran, leader of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team. “These waves can travel hundreds of miles and begin causing dune erosion well before the storm arrives, on shorelines that are far from the center of the storm.

“And with Dorian now moving very slowly, and forecast to stay offshore and move slowly up the coast, high surge, and strong waves are likely to persist over a period of days.”

The erosion estimates could change if Hurricane Dorian veers off its project path. Click here for a continually updated model of the USGS erosion predictions.

Rene Rodriguez has worked at the Miami Herald in a variety of roles since 1989. He currently writes for the business desk covering real estate and the city’s affordability crisis.