Mid-Atlantic
Topsail Beach, directly south of Surf City, during last week’s full moon high tide. Beach engineer Chris Gibson said Topsail Beach’s dunes were affected “not nearly as much” as Surf City’s dunes. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Bob Loy)

Recent full-moon tide and northeaster eroded some of Surf City’s recently restored dunes

Beach engineer Chris Gibson expected some of the newly arrived sand to be pushed back out to sea during the spring northeaster season, but said it’s all a part of the symbiotic relationship between beach nourishment work and “Mother Nature."

SURF CITY, North Carolina — Last week a northeaster hit Topsail Island during a full moon, washing away some of the dunes that were built in recent weeks as part of Surf City’s ongoing $5-million sand-haul project and a separate $300,000 beach push.

Beach engineer Chris Gibson, who has led much of the island’s beach renourishment work since Hurricane Florence, said high spring tides were exacerbated by winds coming from the northeast to cause the erosion. The recent beach push operation involved bulldozers plowing sand from low tide areas to high tide areas of the beach to build temporary dunes, which Gibson said lowered the elevation of the beach.

“When you push and lower the profile a little bit, the water’s able to get in farther. So what you’ve pushed up, the water can get to it,” Gibson said. “With the amount we did lose in the storm – the push and dune restoration is going to have some losses initially because the overall elevation of the beach isn’t there.”

He said the full eastern moon on March 20 added about a foot-and-a-half elevation to the tide, but such an event was extreme. Although he expects minor erosion of the dunes to continue through spring, he is eyeing the southern winds of summer to push back some of that lost sand back towards the beach.

Mayor Doug Medlin, a lifelong resident of Surf City, elaborated.

“During the summertime, the beach builds up,” Medlin said. “Once we get through the northeaster season in the spring, then the beach will start building back up because the southern wind pushes the sand back in.”

Medlin said that although the extreme high tide delayed the sand-haul operation, he still expects the work to be finished by May 1 –– the start of the turtle nesting season. The beach push, he said, has been completed.

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