Lido West beachgoers may have much less sand to share when the summer unofficially starts Memorial Day weekend.
A winter marked by record snowfall and a seemingly endless series of storms culminated in two hard-hitting nor'easters that Town of Hempstead officials say chewed away 50 to 60 feet of beachfront and gouged the 15-foot-dunes that protect area houses, buildings and roadways.
"The dunes did their job even though they're damaged," said Atlantic Beach environmentalist Morris Kramer, adding that the dunes could have survived even to Hurricane Katrina.
Kramer explained that winter storms naturally erode the beaches and the sand drifts westward, eventually ending up in Atlantic Beach. In the spring, Mother Nature rebuilds the beaches, but the recent storms slowed down that process.
While sand from Point Lookout and Lido finds its way to the shores of Long Beach, City Manager Charles Theofan said the city's beaches also saw more erosion than in previous years. Theofan admitted that exact numbers are difficult to provide, but, he said, "If during a normal winter the city loses six inches to a foot of sand, this year we lost twice that amount."
Kramer said that Long Beach's natural buildup gives the city and its residents a false sense of security that the beaches are in no danger of being lost. While there are dunes on the east and west ends of the boardwalk, Kramer explained, dunes must also be built in front of the boardwalk. "In the long term, if they don't do anything, at some point along the barrier beach they will have to build a tremendous sea wall," he said.
Kramer also said that he thinks that the jetties, or groins, are inefficient at preventing erosion and need to be built higher and longer.
Ray Ellmer, a Long Beach native and a 30-year ocean lifeguard, said he believes that the shores of Long Beach haven't changed, but he admitted that the power of recent storms was unique. Ellmer added that this is an El Nino year, which will also affect the formation of storms and their impact.