The U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, released Tuesday, maps out the three locations breached by the storm and reveals the dunes lost 54.4 percent of pre-storm volume with dune overwash impacting 46.6 percent of the barrier beach. The result is a dramatic change to the island’s shape, according to the release issued on the report.
"The beaches and dunes of the island were severely eroded during Sandy," said Cheryl Hapke, a USGS research geologist and lead author of the study.
Of the volume of sand that was lost from the beaches and dunes, 14 percent was deposited inland.
"The impact from Sandy was unprecedented in recent times," said Hapke.
"It is important that efforts to rebuild on the island be guided by the science, which shows that Sandy profoundly altered the shape and position of the barrier island, shifting it landward and redistributing large amounts of sand. Storms like Sandy are part of the natural evolution of barrier islands, which ultimately result in islands that are more resilient to sea level rise," she states in the release.
The report reveals that shorelines shifts continued in the following winter months, changing as much as 57.5 meters (189 feet) inland. While some areas begin to show some recovery in the early spring, at the end of the survey period just a tiny bit, 18 percent, of the pre-Sandy beach volume had returned.
"Barrier islands provide natural protection against storms, shielding coastlines from rising waves and tides," said Hapke.
"The loss of so much sand increases the vulnerability of this area of coastline to future storms."
Fire Island is the longest of the barrier islands that lie along the south shore of Long Island, New York. The majority of the island is part of Fire Island National Seashore and not only provides the first line of defense against storms, but is a unique and important recreational and ecosystem resource.