Why Hurricane Irene Is Good for the Outer Banks

It carries new sand to the area, which helps prevent it from eroding
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2011 8:29 AM CDT
Why Hurricane Irene Is Good for the Outer Banks
A man walks along Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

It's counterintuitive, but it's true, says a Duke University geology professor. Hurricane Irene "is just what" the Outer Banks need. In a conversation with the Los Angeles Times, Orrin Pilkey acknowledges the many, many downsides of the storm: "We are going to see an awful lot of buildings destroyed and an awful lot of buildings damaged." Wildlife will drown. Salt carried by the waves will kill vegetation. And yet, this kind of storm is what allows these islands to survive.

Pilkey explains that storms this severe bring sand to the barrier islands, bulking them up in a way that prevents them from eroding to the point that they slide into the sea. The Times compares the scenario to that of some Californians who reside in fire-prone areas whose environment actually relies on the disaster. Pilkey sees the parallels. "A naturalist living on a barrier island knows that protecting your house is not a good thing, because protecting your house ends up destroying the beach." (More Hurricane Irene stories.)

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