The barrier islands along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts entice inhabitants with their balmy beachfronts, but prove an equal draw for often devastating tropical storms. As Hurricane Ike's path of destruction across Galveston Island shows, building houses on what amounts to an oversized sandbar can be a critical mistake—though one that is becoming more and more common, reports LiveScience.
Barrier islands protect mainland beaches from the worst of the ocean's ravages, but that means bearing the brunt of storms and waves themselves. These fast-evolving pieces of land lack bedrock, which means big enough storms can literally wipe them off the map. But though it's foolish to build in such places, says a geologist, "people are going to do it anyway."