Two side-by-side beach communities in New Jersey – though seemingly similar – fared very differently when Hurricane Sandy hit their shores, and now researchers understand why. Led by Jennifer L. Irish, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, the team re-discovered a 150-year-old stone seawall that was buried beneath the sand lining the town of Bay Head. It turns out the seawall, which stretches 1,260 meters along the Jersey shore, was the factor that made the difference between flooding and total destruction.

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Roughly 88 percent of Bay Head homes were flooded after Hurricane Sandy swept through, but half of neighboring Mantoloking, which was not protected by the seawall, was absolutely leveled, according to Physorg. Only one Bay Head home, which was located on the seaward side of the wall, succumbed to the same level of destruction.

H. Richard Lane, program director at the National Science Foundation‘s (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, expressed amazement at how well the seawall served its purpose despite the immensity and duration of the storm surges that pummeled the community.

“This finding should have major implications for planning, as sea level rises and storms increase in intensity in response to global warming,” he said.

Via Physorg

Lead image via Jennifer Irish; second via US Response Restoration