As Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the storm’s waves and wind cut a breach in a narrow part of Fire Island, a barrier island south of Long Island, New York. Referred to as the “wilderness breach,” the new channel was cut in an area called the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness of the Fire Island National Seashore.
The breach grew rapidly. The year after the storm, several nor’easters widened the opening. This series of Landsat images shows Fire Island before Hurricane Sandy hit, then again after the storm. The November 6 image shows the breach starting to open, under thin cloud cover. The growing shoal area on the north side of the breach can be seen in the images after the storm.
Breaches are natural barrier island features, and they can change flooding risk to coastal communities. The Fire Island breach provided USGS scientists with an opportunity to study this natural process in depth.
Bathymetric surveys in the years after Hurricane Sandy along with satellite images help scientists model future changes of the barrier island and better predict what may happen to the region in future storms.