U.S. Geological Survey photos show Hurricane Matthew beach impact

USGS photos

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – U.S. Geological Survey aerial photographs shows Hurricane Matthew cut a new inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, outside of St. Augustine.

The aerial photography of Florida’s East Coast before and after Hurricane Matthew drive home the damage. While the effects are far less than meteorologist’s worst case predictions, the storm did wash away 15 percent of the sand dunes along the Atlantic Coast. In some low-lying areas, Matthew cut islands in half, completely wiping the beach away and creating new inlets.

“In even lower areas along these barrier islands, waves and surge have cut completely across the islands and now water is flowing between the ocean and the inland water areas, effectively cutting this island in two,”Hilary Stockdon said.

Further south in the town of Flagler Beach, the powerful waves washed away a portion of Highway A1A, closing the beachfront highway indefinitely, and obliterated a 17-foot dune.

MORE ONLINE: USGS pre- and post-hurricane photo comparisons

Other images captured the damage at Vilano Beach (photos, below), north of St. Augustine, where the storm surge and wave runup washed away a 16-foot sand dune, destroying oceanfront homes’ boardwalks and decks. 

Vilano Beach USGS photos

St. Johns County has sent the state of Florida a preliminary estimate that $120 million worth of beach and dune sand was lost during the hurricane. 

The U.S. Geological Survey is still gathering data on Hurricane Matthew to help coastal areas become more resilient. The question of whether to restore the eroded beaches is up to the affected communities.

The USGS, in collaboration with the USGS, just began a month-long data collection period in the Southeastern U.S. coast using airborne laser technology to estimate the volume of sand that Hurricane Matthew moved off of beaches, measure the height and breadth of the remaining dunes, and be ready to forecast the erosion potential of the next storm.