High wind, waves and tide take a toll on newly restored beaches, dunes.


October 31, 1991|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

Powerful waves and high tides lashed Ocean City for the second consecutive day today, causing flooding in some of the Maryland resort's streets and eroding beach along the entire 10-mile coastline.

At the edge of Ocean City's famed boardwalk, waves completely had replaced sand, some of which had been pumped on to shore as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's $44 million beach-replenishment project.

While awaiting another high tide later today, acting city engineer Terry McGean said portions of the man made dunes at 33rd and 50th streets were washed back to sea.

The state and federally funded beach-replenishment and -restructuring project involved forming sand dunes from 27th Street north to the Delaware line. South of 27th Street, a sea wall was built to keep storms from reaching the newer boardwalk and structures.

"Actually, I'm very pleased because without the dunes and sea wall, we would have had very significant damage to property," McGean said.

He compared this most recent storm with other, more devastating "nor'easters" that battered Ocean City in 1933 and 1962.

Neither McGean nor other officials could estimate the cost of the storm, which brought tides up so high that the Wicomico River in Salisbury, about 30 miles to the west, rose above the U.S. 50 bridge.

In neighboring Delaware, officials asked residents of South Bethany, Fenwick Island and inland bay areas to leave. Evacuees went to Dagsboro Armory, Roxana Fire Hall and Georgetown Armory.

Residents of Fenwick Island, Bethany, South Bethany and North Bethany also were asked to conserve water because flooding has knocked out power to the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility.

"We'll have some erosion, no doubt about it," said Ocean City Mayor Roland "Fish" Powell. "But we've had no water overrun from the ocean to the bay, no structural damage, no real high winds, so I think the damage will be kept to a minimum.

"I really can't say how many sand is gone because the beach is entirely covered with water. The other thing that hopefully will keep damage down is the wind has shifted from the northeast to the northwest. That helps a great deal."

Fay Jones, an employee at the oceanfront Stowaway Motel at 22nd Street, said the water rose over the boardwalk last night at high tide and was lapping at the boardwalk today.

"We normally have 40 to 50 feet of beach in front of our place," Jones said. "Now we have none."

In front of the Carousel Hotel at 118th Street, high tides reached the dune fences and covered 80 to 100 feet of beach, said hotel general manager Sam Cook.

"The waves are still fairly big, and we obviously have a fair amount of erosion," he said.

A spokeswoman at the Holiday Inn on the ocean at 67th Street said tides "washed up past the new sand dunes, about 100 feet."

Third-Class Boatswain's Mate David Biles at the Coast Guard station in Ocean City's inlet said, "We've experienced tides 4 to 5 feet higher than normal. The National Weather Service has posted coastal flood warnings and we have gale warnings posted on the water."

He said few if any work or pleasure boats have left the many marinas around the Ocean City area.

Ken Shaver, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said that before the storm weakens by tomorrow, additional beach erosion could occur.

Shaver said tides flooded the large parking lot on the southern end of Ocean City and many of the main and secondary streets in town after flood water backed up through the storm drains. One eyewitness said backwater creeks and tributaries were flooded in West Ocean City.

The storm should move out of the area by tomorrow, Shaver said.

Shaver said tides at Ocean City were at least 3 feet above normal, but the waves and high tides wiped out a tide gauge that was on the end of the amusement and fishing pier that jutted off the southern end of the town's boardwalk.

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