Fire Island’s Future Considered After Hurricane Sandy

Fire Island’s future is being considered after the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. The 32-mile-long barrier island took a direct hit from the storm’s powerful surge.

The wall of water caused by the storm swamped almost the entire island, destroying or washing away about 200 homes and scraped sand dunes away completely, reports Yahoo! News.

Despite the destruction, however, Fire Island residents are looking to the future and counting their blessings, because more than 4,000 structures survived enough to be repaired.

Some also credit the maintained wall of sand dunes, which ranged from 10 to 20 feet tall, for catching the brunt of the hurricane’s force. Malcolm Bowman, a professor of physical oceanography at Stony Brook University, stated:

“The dunes were demolished, but without their protection it would have been much worse.”

Fire Island will take time to restore back to its past glory as a weekend getaway that boasts just 300 residents year-round. The population swells to 75,000 in the summer as tourists rent every available condo, apartment, bungalow, and multi-level mansion for the opportunity to get away from city life.

Cars are banned on the island in summer, leaving residents to get around on bikes and boardwalks, toting their gear in red toy wagons. ABC News notes that one way to protect Fire Island’s future will be to rebuild the dunes.

Sand from the dunes currently covers the rest of the island, where it was blown by the wind and carried by the angry ocean. Hyman Portnoy, a retired electrical worker who resides on the island, stated that rebuilding the dunes needs to happen quickly. Portnoy stated:

“We haven’t got any protection now. I’d be satisfied with anything. I’d be satisfied with a pile.”

Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association, stated that a portion of residents’ property taxes goes toward maintaining the dunes, but that the federal government will likely be asked for help rebuilding the dunes. She argued that maintaining the massive sand barrier not only protects Fire Island’s future, but that of residents on Long Island, who are protected by the barrier island.

Replacing the sand dunes is a massive project, one that residents have already started. Workers are scooping up sand from the streets and placing it in bags, piling them up where the dunes once stood. Restoring the dunes on Fire Island is one way that residents of the island will protect its future.