Ocean City Sand Dunes Are Damaged But Not Destroyed

Posted on November 16, 2009


A bird's-eye view of the wide dune at 28th Street, showing the dune crossing for access to the beach. The dune is thick with grasses to protect against wind erosion. The picture was taken about noon Sunday, just before the sun came out. From this angle you can't see how much, if any, damage there is on the ocean side of the dune.

No Loss of Life, No Major Property Damage

The storm that hammered Ocean City for three days last week should remind people in Ocean City and Maryland not to take the resort’s sand-dune system and beach replenishment program for granted, Mayor Richard Meehan told the City Council Monday night.

Despite the severity of the storm, no ocean water got past Ocean City’s sand dunes, the mayor said.

One-quarter to one-half of Ocean City’s protective sand-dune system was reclaimed by the Atlantic Ocean during last week’s Nor’Easter, City Engineer Terry McGean said Monday night. In a verbal report to the Mayor and City Council, McGean confirmed that the resort’s beaches suffered severe erosion.


The dune line looking south from 37th Street on Friday the 13th. Photo shows about half the width of the dune. Note the sand fence anchoring the foot of the dune.

McGean suggested that the three-day storm will become known as the Friday the Thirteenth Storm. The city engineer pointed out that Ocean City lost only sand during the storm. No lives or property were lost in the storm, he said.

“A nice sandbar” is visible offshore after the storm, McGean reported, meaning that most of the sand eroded from the beach is “still in the system.”

Ocean City hasn’t seen a storm so severe since 1998, McGean said. As a result, the dunes have been building up for years and were high and deep enough to withstand the storm surge and high waves last week. And despite the loss of sand, the dunes still stand to protect the resort against future storms.

Mayor Meehan commended the Ocean City Police Department and Fire Department, the city engineer, and all town employees for their work under difficult conditions throughout the storm. And he said maintenance of the dune system to protect the resort is “worth every dollar.”

Importance of Bridges

The mayor also commended the decision on Friday to initiate two-way traffic on Baltimore Avenue in order to preserve access to the Route 50 Bridge. In the south end of town, parts of Philadelphia Avenue, St. Louis Avenue, and side streets were flooded. Water was not deep enough to stop pickup trucks, SUVs, city buses, or even most cars. But the flooding was bad enough on many blocks of Philadelphia Avenue to significantly slow and back up traffic to the bridge.

Mayor Meehan said Ocean City is fortunate that the storm hit in November, and not August. The Route 90 bridge, which was open in August, has been closed for repairs since before the storm. The mayor said the traffic situation during the storm is a reminder that building a second Route 90 bridge, providing two lanes each way, should be a priority.

The mayor said he has received calls from Gov. Martin O’Malley, Congressman Frank Kratovil, and other state leaders concerned about Ocean City during the storm. All state leaders he talked with promised to do what they can to support Ocean City’s recovery from the storm.

Army Corps of Engineers officials were in town over the weekend to help the city assess damage to the beach. Officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources were here on Monday, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials will be in Ocean City on Tuesday.

Yes, we have some debris. The storm somehow managed to fill in the ramp from the boardwalk to the beach with this collection of flotsam. Photo taken Saturday afternoon at 12th Street.

McGean said town workers and contractors would be removing storm debris from the beach in coming days. A beach replenishment program was already scheduled for 2010, he said. The replenishment program can be modified, in consultation with federal and state officials, to take into account the recent storm damage.

In other City Council action Monday night:

  • The Council hired a new convention center manager during the closed session prior to the regular meeting. The new manager held a similar position in Daytona Beach.
  • Mayor Meehan proclaimed December as Toys for Tots Month, and commended the U.S. Marine Corps for their work on the annual program.
  • Approval was given for a special event, a Parade of Antique Police Cars, on the Boardwalk on Saturday, Dec. 5.

The Mayor and Council’s next work session will be on Dec. 1.

— John Hayden