RI's South County Beaches Avoid Major Damage After Last Weekend's Storm

Mar 7, 2018

Rhode Island’s ocean-facing beaches escaped most of the damage from last weekend’s storm, but some sand dunes eroded during high tides made higher by the Nor'easter.

After the storm, staff from Save the Bay assessed small sand dunes at East Beach that help reduce inland flooding.

Wenley Ferguson, restoration coordinator at Save the Bay, said because east-facing shorelines had the greatest risk of damage, she was surprised at the type of erosion they found at East Beach in South County.

"The storm surge was so great that the water was overtopping this small dune and then causing erosion on the backside," Ferguson said. 

Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council said sand dune erosion was minimal. However, Ferguson said high tides have been higher than usual for at least five days after the storm, keeping sand dunes vulnerable to damage.

Water flowed over this footpath through a sand dune at East Beach eroding the sand dune on either side. Darkened sand shows the path of the water.
Credit Wenley Ferguson / Save the Bay

"That wave energy has not dissipated on the (southern-most part of) Rhode Island's coastline since Friday," Ferguson said. "So every high tide, the force of those waves are causing erosion."

Janet Freedman, coastal geologist with the Coastal Resources Management Council, said during her assessment of beaches between Westerly and Matunuck, there was some flooding on a road in Westerly during high tide, no structural damage and some damage to footpaths over sand dunes.

Freedman said too much damage to footpaths could threaten public access to Rhode Island's shorelines.   

State officials plan to assess beaches facing Narragansett Bay this week.

Atlantic Avenue in Westerly floods during high tide on Monday.
Credit Janet Freedman / Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council