Calm before the Storm
Tourists enjoy a day at the beach at the Virginia Beach, Va., oceanfront prior to Hurricane Irene blowing through the area. The beach is part of a hurricane protection project that saved an estimated $104 million in damages during Hurricane Irene. (U.S. Army Photo/Patrick Bloodgood)

NORFOLK, Va. --The Virginia Beach Hurricane Protection System prevented an estimated $104 million in damages for residents and businesses located along the City Of Virginia Beach's oceanfront during Hurricane Irene.
Even though Irene pushed water up to the seawall, it never went over, keeping the most damaging part of a hurricane, the storm surge, from reaching the buildings.
The project stretches six miles along the oceanfront and includes a minimum 100-foot wide, 8.5 foot high beach berm that gentle slopes to the water. It also includes a four-mile long concrete seas wall and a two-mile long sand dune system to protect the infrastructure located behind them.
Jennifer Armstrong, the Norfolk District's project manager for the protection system, says the recent amount of savings reinforces the need for a big beach.
"Since the project has been in place, the system has continually saved the tax payers of Virginia Beach millions of dollars in rebuilding costs from damages that would have occurred if the project wasn't in place," Armstrong said.
Using a formula that takes into account the height of the water during the storm and determines how far inland the water would surge if no project was in place, economists can determine damage amounts in terms of costs to the community.
Later this year, the Corps and the city are planning to begin a five-month, $12 million beach renourishment project to bring the level of protection back to its prescribed levels.
"Over the past decade the beach sand, designed to act as a sacrificial buffer, has slightly eroded away, so we want to go back and put sand back in place to keep the area protected," Armstrong said. "If you look at the initial $140 million to construct the system nearly a decade ago, the project has more than paid for itself."
The replenishment is scheduled to begin in December and last throughout the winter to minimize the potential for dredging work to harm sea turtles.
When complete, the beach will be back at its full protection levels for the next coastal storm event.
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Page last updated Fri October 7th, 2011 at 12:54