Wind, waves and water

The Cape Henlopen Lighthouse.

Mother Nature always wins in the long run.

As more and more people choose to live within a few miles of the coastline, a change in the environment is inevitable. Even with the best environmental designs to deal with development, man’s imprint has an effect.

The recent series of fall nor’easters along the Sussex County serves as a reminder that wind, waves and water are part of the landscape of living along the coast where storms have been part of history.

And there will be more storms in the future, and at some point either a hurricane, which has never officially hit the coast with full force, or another major nor’easter like the storm of 1962 will hit the area again.

Millions of dollars have been spent over the past 10 years to build up the Delaware coastline in a never-ending battle to keep sand on the beaches and dunes. That shifting sand and beach grass is all that stands between businesses and homes and total destruction in a storm.

During this past nor’easter, those shifting sands making up the dunes held the line and prevented damage to everything behind them. The dunes themselves took a major hit and are in need of immediate repair.

The ebb and flow of the currents, tides, waves and moving sand is a marvel of nature that many tend to take for granted.

If you doubt that Mother Nature wins in the end, consider the fate of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse. Built in 1767 and rebuilt in 1777, the lighthouse stood as one of the original lighthouses in the United States for nearly 150 years.

But shifting sands on the Great Dune played into the fate of the beacon. Estimates are the dune was losing 3 to 5 feet of sand per year, and nothing done to stem that loss succeeded. With the foundation severely compromised, during an April 13,1926 nor’easter, the lighthouse fell onto the narrow beach.

Locals estimate the original site of the lighthouse is now about one-half mile out in the ocean.

With sea-level rise estimates, storms and the natural shifting of the sands, one has to wonder how long man can hold off the sea along the Delaware coastline.

The angry ocean during a recent nor'easter.

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One Response to “Wind, waves and water”

  1. Lee Hoover Says:

    Went out to Port Mahon the Sunday after Ida met the nor’easter. It tore the road all the way out in one spot and pushed in quite a lot of sand. Haven’t been anywhere else yet, but wondering how North Bowers Beach fared. When I was there in September, the newly pumped beach had eroded almost to my waist level…

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