Residents concerned as supermoon adds to beach erosion

Unusually high tides come on heels of Hurricane Matthew wiping out dunes

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The tide is expected to be one to two feet higher than normal with this weekend’s supermoon and that could cause even more erosion for local beaches that were just hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.

People who live along the shore in St. Johns County, particularly those whose homes were damaged in the hurricane, are concerned.

The Sky4 drone captured footage Friday along South Ponte Vedra Beach, where the tide already comes close to homes.

VIDEO: Sky4 drone surveys beach erosion in South Ponte Vedra

“We actually had two sand dunes before Matthew, and the eastwardmost sand dune got washed over,” beach resident Peggy Bald said.

A marine science expert said a temporary solution is to build a seawall, but residents will eventually have to build farther inland.

“It’s really, really hard to rebuild things like dunes,” said Dr. Jeremy Stalker, an assistant professor of biology and marine science at Jacksonville University. “The dunes we saw washed away by Matthew are incredibly hard to reproduce. Thousands of years made them. It takes a very long time to rebuild them.”

One of those dunes was behind Bald’s house and others around South Ponte Vedra Beach.

“With a little bit of erosion from Matthew, the contour of the beach has changed,” Bald said. “But we’re standing right now at the high-water mark. You can see, I still have about 30 feet before my dune begins.”

She said a group of concerned neighbors is getting together this weekend to talk about beach renourishment.

It comes as the supermoon is expected to make high tide even higher, meaning more erosion on top of what Matthew caused.

“These are a phenomenon. They just happen to be all happening at the same time,” Stalker said.

Bald said her family's beach house dates back to 1968, and the beach has never looked like it does now.

“It’s very sad to see the foundations of people’s homes and all that’s washed away,” Bald said.

But Stalker said there is a silver lining.

“Beachcombing is going to be very good for a while,” Stalker said. “A lot of erosion from those offshore deposits is pushing things like sharks’ teeth and megalodon teeth and mammal bones from thousands and millions of years ago back onto the beach.”