Berms And Bags

Now that Hurricane Sandy has passed — and as we cross our fingers hoping this unnamed nor’easter blows out to sea — alert “06880” reader Ed Paul wonders:

“In retrospect, was the time, work and money the town spent creating the sand berms at Compo good to lessen the wave force — or bad, since it gave a massive amount of sand a head start to get closer to homes and streets?”

He’s got a 2nd question, too:

“For all the homes and businesses that spent a lot of time sandbagging their front doors, did that help at all?”

Ed wants honest feedback. We do too. Click “Comments,” and let us know what you think.

When the Compo Beach berm was breached, sand poured onto — and into — Soundview Drive homes.

15 responses to “Berms And Bags

  1. I’d like to bury my head in one of the sand berms…four more years of nothing, government stalemate, division of the country! Yikes, give me the pile of sand to climb in to!

  2. Well, if downtown was an example of sandbags working, they failed to stem the rising surge as so many stores had the dryers going full blast and the disaster mitigation crews in their Tyvek coveralls. Downtown 20/20 should be incorporating this issue in their overall planning. With weather patterns changing…we can expect to have more of these storms and retailers….some wiped out twice in a couple of months…are going to say….it is just not worth the aggravation. The commercial properties are certainly going to take a hit in value…and after all…what major retailer wants to deal with ongoing flood damage.

  3. It would appear from expert literature that most sandbag berms were flawed in design and execution. http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ageng/safety/ae626w.htm

    I agree that this may happen frequently so it may be wise for downtown folks to take a few lessons in protection.

    • That’s quite an article that clearly shows all sandbags placed in town were improperly done and probably useless.

  4. Luisa Francoeur

    This is an excellent question which should be researched in order that the town can benefit in the future. It would be helpful if those commenting would stick to the subject at hand and provide constructive information .

  5. I wonder about the use of sand bags as well. We bought 50 bags to fill just in case and they are still in the box because we weren’t convinced (after our purchase, of course) about the advantage of using them and how.
    I heard of one house with a low first floor near Mill Beach where reponders opened all the doors to allow the water to flow through, rather than get trapped with a receding tide. Some basement casement windows are made to allow the water to flow. So what good are sand bags?

  6. We are getting some history to help protect ourselves in the future. Sandbags downtown can be effective at keeping water out if properly installed and if the height of the water isn’t greater than the height of the sandbags. Each storm is different due to wave action and direction of the wind, but the town and the downtown merchants need to start keeping records. Sandy was so strong that the berms were probably a net negative, but they could be helpful in smaller storms. Ditto with downtown sandbags. A great tide predictor can be found at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/mdl/etsurge/index.php?page=stn&region=ne&type=both&stn=ctbrid. I know that 11 feet floods my road, that Irene (13 feet I think) floods half of my yard and that Sandy, at 14 feet, barely reached my foundation. I have to go now to prepare for 11 feet at 5pm tonight. Better safe than sorry.

  7. I live downtown and sadly, I didn’t see one store that built high enough sand bag barriers from where I stood. The water went over all of them, so it is tough to know if they would have helped otherwise. There were a few stores that combined sand bags with 8 foot high sheets of plastic, however, and it would be interesting to know if that combo worked for them.

  8. One neighbor of mine near the water on Beachside Ave. had a pretty good wall of them up across his driveway. But they washed away.

  9. Shellybythesea

    There was one area at Danbury Avenue where the Sand Burm was not as high as the rest of the burm and the wall was broken in that spot. It is possible that the sand burn may have protected the wall and the road from erosion. Although the sand was inconvenient for some, at least the town was trying to be proactive.

  10. I would guess that the berms absorbed a significant amount of energy from the waves, at least while they lasted. Maybe something for AP Physics to consider.

  11. Good question Ed and actually this nor’easter is named, which has created a bit of a fuss between the National Weather Service and the Weather Channel. As you have likely seen by now it is dubbed “Athena” by the Weather Channel, one of many “classical” names lined up for 2012-2013 “winter storms”…see post on Forbes.com here
    ‘Et Tu, Athena?’: The New Nor’Easter Brings Another Threat And Battle Over Name – Forbes onforb.es/WBxaag

  12. An article in the NY Times today tells of how the NY Aquarium’s sandbagged doors did not prevent the Atlantic Ocean from surging in through vents and ducts, putting 10′-15′ of water in the basements of their 6 buildings in 3 minutes and then pouring 3′ onto the ground floors.