Got Sand Dunes?

Posted on December 15, 2009

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OCEAN CITY'S SAND DUNES WERE SERIOUSLY ERODED BY HIGH AND POWERFUL WAVES DURING THE NOVEMBER 2009 NOR'EASTER.

The Sand Dunes of Ocean City

People love the beach and the sand dunes in Ocean City, Maryland. Our sand dunes are among the hardiest dunes around. Not the tallest sand dunes in the world, but possibly the most well-maintained. Our dunes are more like the Appalachian Mountains than the Rockies. Ocean City’s dune system runs from 27th Street north to the Delaware line, protecting about seven miles of the resort town from the fury of Atlantic Ocean storms.

You can see how sharply the waves cut into the sand dunes on the beach side. I estimate the above dune to be 10 to 12 feet tall. I shot this series of photos on the Ocean City beach at 40th Street on Monday, Dec. 12, about four weeks after the storm.

A closer look at the erosion damage. You can see that vegetation is encouraged on the dunes, helping to stabilize them against wind and waves.

Here’s a view of the same sand dune from the dune crossing footpath, looking north. You can see that although the dune was sharply eroded, more than half of the dune remains. And you can see that the beach remains wide at 40th Street (although this photo was taken at near low tide). The Ocean City beach is much wider at the south end of the resort, and narrower at some spots farther north.

To round out your perspective on this sand dune, here’s a view from the west side, taken on the approach to the dune crossing. It shows the height of the dune from the landward side. Note that blowing sand has filled in part of the walkway.

Now that you’ve seen the dunes on a sunny day, the above photo from the November storm is a reminder of why the dunes are needed. I don’t remember where I took this picture.

The above photo, taken from the deck of the Dunes Manor Hotel at 28th Street, shows a dune crossing on a very wide, well-vegetated sand dune.

For contrast, here’s a photo of the dune crossing in front of the Castle In The Sand at 37th Street, taken from the beach near the end of the storm. This crossing was completely filled in by blowing sand, making for an arduous climb.

And the same filled-in 37th Street dune crossing seen from the west. (The footprints in the sand look like footprints in the snow after a blizzard, when only a few walkers have ventured out.)

And to round out your tour of Ocean City sand dunes, here’s a miniature dune, formed by blowing sand collected against sand fencing, a few feet off the Boardwalk at the south end of town. In the background is the Ocean City fishing pier.

The town of Ocean City, the state of Maryland, and the Army Corps of Engineers plan a beach-replenishment program in 2010, including repairs to the damaged sand dunes. The future will bring other heavy weather — nor’easters, tropical storms, hurricanes — and the sand dunes will be needed to protect the resort.

— John Hayden

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