Beach project saves Ocean City Man-made dunes are "a great success," say city, U.S. officials.

November 01, 1991|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Evening Sun Staff Reporter Robert Hilson Jr. contributed to this story.

OCEAN CITY -- After surveying minimal storm damage in Ocean City, government officials today hailed the resort's beach protection project as "a great success story."

"The project performed exactly as it was intended," said Lloyd C. Caldwell, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, referring to the effort that rebuilt Ocean City's dunes and beaches over the past three years.

Mayor Roland E. "Fish" Powell said the tides that pounded

Ocean City over the past two days were the worst the town has seen since a winter storm in 1962.

But the dune line wasn't breached, nor did the sea cross Coastal Highway to Assawoman Bay.

"Many millions of dollars of property have been saved," he said.

"There hasn't been anything life-threatening at all," the mayor said at today's City Hall news conference. "It's very comforting to have that protection."

Torrey Brown, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, said property damage in Ocean City behind the dunes was "absolutely zero."

None of the officials would put a cost estimate on replacing the dunes that were eroded at about a half-dozen spots, from about 33rd Street up to streets in the middle 80s. They said they would begin making detailed surveys of the damage today.

Storm-driven surf subsided today after a day of snapping at the sea wall, surging to the boardwalk and nipping at the dunes, dune grass and fences dedicated just Tuesday as part of the $44 million beach-replenishment project.

Tides surged 4 to 5 feet above normal highs yesterday afternoon, flooding much of the south end of Ocean City, the Inlet and most of the streets along the length of the bay side.

"It's the worst high tide since the 1962 northeaster," said Terence J. McGean, acting city engineer.

"They taught me a lot in school," he said, "but not how to stop the tide from coming in."

McGean said there had been no emergencies.

Ocean City police reported no injuries: "Just a lot of water."

A surfer coming out of the ocean at 12th Street yesterday said the waves were cresting with a 10-foot face.

"It was great," said Steve Dane, 30, an Ocean City native who has spent a lot of time in the water. "This is about as big as they get," said another surfer, Mike Conboy, who works at a restaurant called Fager's Island, at 60th Street.

The waves were not getting as high today. The National Weather Service forecast a slight chance of rain for late tonight and possibly tomorrow morning, then becoming partly sunny and breezy.

In Baltimore, tides caused minor flooding. The intersection at Lancaster and Caroline streets in Fells Point was under water today and police had to reroute traffic.

Yesterday, 3 to 3 1/2 feet of water covered Ocean City's St. Louis Avenue at high tide. Kids slogged through curb-high water as they went trick-or-treating in the 8800 block of Chesapeake Ave. hours after the tides had receded.

"The flooding we're having is probably the worst since [Hurricane] Gloria" in 1985, McGean said.

West Ocean City was basically under water up to the door sills and into the first floors.

Water lapped all through Shantytown Village and the marinas at the west end of the U.S. 50 bridge.

Among other places, dunes were damaged at 78th and 79th streets, where surging tides had ripped away fencing and about a third of the dune. Water flooded over the dune at 79th Street and stood in a pool under an apartment house.

"I don't think the water has been as high at the beach line in many years," McGean said. "I don't believe Gloria got as high.

"It's higher than I've ever seen," he said. "At 2 p.m., it was 15 feet from the boardwalk, north of 4th Street all the way to the end of the boardwalk."

Until the high tide at about 2:45 a.m., Ocean City emergency crews could do little more than pick up "anything floating around."

"We do the best we can between tides," McGean said.

"It looks much worse than it is," he said.

He said it would be difficult to tell about beach damage until tides return to normal. But he said he thought portions of beach that had eroded would come back in the spring "when nice long swelling waves take the sand bar and deposit it back on the beach."

He was optimistic because of the way the waves were breaking yesterday.

"They're breaking far off shore," he said. "You've got a flat beach and the beach is not eroded.

"If they were breaking right at the beach, then we would have some concern."

Both the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources had helicopters in the air yesterday. But their estimates of damage aren't yet complete.

The cause of the extraordinary tides and subsequent flooding was a storm hanging about 200 miles out to sea, veering back and forth, whacking the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

Ocean City was relatively unscathed, compared with Long Island, N.Y., and Cape Hatteras, N.C.

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