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Hurricane: Development of Beachfront areas Not Safe in US

US Beach Building Persists Despite Nature’s Grip

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FILE - Homes severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy are seen along the beach in Mantoloking, N.J., April 25, 2013. Mantoloking and Ocean City, N.J., planned to go to court to seize control of narrow strips of beachfront land from property owners blocking a desperately needed protective dune system along New Jersey's 127-mile coast. (VOA)
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When a hurricane comes ashore, few images are more iconic than a million-dollar beach house collapsing into the sea.

Undermined by the ferocity of water, shifting sands and sometimes bad construction, waterfront development takes a beating each time a powerful storm barrels into the Eastern Seaboard.

So why do people keep building on the beach?

“Development of beachfront areas is controversial,” writes Florence Duarte of Georgia State University in the report Responsible Beachfront Development. “On one side, a growing human population demands the use of such areas for recreation and work. On the other, environmentalists and biologists hope to preserve these habitats.”

Beach
Sandbags surround homes on North Topsail Beach, N.C., Sept. 12, 2018, as Hurricane Florence threatens the coast. (VOA)

A balance

The balance between the human desire to work and play on the water — and developing the waterfront responsibly — often is tested during hurricane and storm season. Despite increased intensity and frequency of storms, rising sea levels and other weather catastrophes, the beach remains the most desirable of destinations: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that more than half the U.S. population lives along a coast, and 180 million people visit each year.

Housing and rental prices along East Coast beaches in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York’s Long Island and Cape Cod in Massachusetts exceed the national average because of the views, fresh air and access to water activities. The point of sitting for hours in traffic on a hot, summer Friday is to get away from developed, urban, asphalt centers for the weekend.

Development tapped out

But many resort destinations are reaching maximum development.

In Ocean City, Maryland, a 14-kilometer-long barrier island that is home to about 7,000 permanent residents in the off-season, swells to more than 300,000 vacationers in the summer and on holidays.

“The development has pretty much tapped out,” said J.D. Wells, a Realtor and lifelong Ocean City resident. “The oceanfront is completely developed. Any new construction being done is replacing a tear-down that was already there.”

Properties that sit along the waterfront or have a view of the ocean can fetch more than double equivalent properties inland, Wells said.

Building
FILE – People walk along a beach near damaged beachfront homes, March 11, 2018, in Marshfield, Mass. The Northeast is bracing for its third nor’easter in fewer than two weeks. (VOA)

Views and taxes

Towns and cities collect substantial tax revenue from those waterfront and water-view properties, sometimes charging homeowners tens of thousands of dollars more in taxes for the luxury of owning beachfront property. In many areas that have seasonal ebbs and flows, tax revenue from those properties can fill municipal coffers that benefit permanent residents, many of whom cannot afford the waterfront prices of seasonal residents.

“Over the past few decades, society’s wealth, attitude and desires have shifted and floodplains are now being developed in more upscale ways,” said Andy Coburn, associate director for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

“We can’t overlook the demand for coastal land, no matter how vulnerable or risky,” he added.

To protect beachfront properties, some towns have pushed back on nature by replacing sand stolen by storms. And while beach replenishment is expensive — Virginia Beach, Virginia, set aside $10 million for six years of sand replenishment — it is not permanent. The ocean is supposed to pound away at the beach, dragging it back out to sea.

In New Jersey, the state earmarked $1.2 billion for projects that reduce hurricane and storm damage, manage coastal storm risk and replenish the beaches that generate nearly half of the state’s $45.4 billion in annual tourism dollars.

Beach
FILE – The remnants of a home leveled by Hurricane Matthew sit along the beachfront as Chief of Police George Brothers talks on the radio after Hurricane Matthew hit Edisto Beach, S.C., Oct. 8, 2016. (VOA)

Building codes for new construction require windows and doors that can withstand high winds and hold back flooding. Wells explained that seawalls and sand dunes are erected as barriers. But nature is mighty.

Powerful even on a normal day, the Atlantic Ocean, when combined with the energy of an extreme storm, can cut through solid land. Residents of Ocean City, Maryland, wandered out after a storm in 1933 to find that a 15-meter wide, 2.5-meter-deep inlet had been sliced into the south end of their barrier island, opening a convenient channel for fishing and pleasure craft between the ocean and the bay.

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Likewise, the ocean created an inlet in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, while snatching vintage, brown-shingled cottages into the sea in 2009, according to the Boston Globe newspaper.

“A compromise needs to be found that is responsible to both demands. Rational, sustainable usage of these areas is possible if people are willing to spend time and money in planning,” Duarte wrote.

“Bounded by water, coastal and waterfront communities are challenged to make the best use of limited land while protecting critical natural resources from the potentially damaging effects of growth,” says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in its SmartGrowth report. “These communities must consider a common set of overarching issues when managing growth and development.” (VOA)

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US Airport Gets 2 Health Scares From Inbound Flights

The CDC said in a statement that the cases were a reminder that flu season is coming, and urged all U.S. citizens six months or older to get a flu shot by the end of October.

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Two major health scares at U.S. airports involving inbound flights are related to pilgrims returning from the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which ended in late August, U.S. health officials said on Friday.

On Wednesday, U.S. health officials sent an emergency response team with mobile diagnostic equipment to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after they were told that more than 100 passengers aboard an Emirates airlines flight from Dubai were experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Dr. Martin Cetron, director for the division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters in a telephone interview that health officials evaluated nearly 549 passengers at the airport, and sent a total of 11 people to a local hospital for more testing.

Ten people were tested for a battery of respiratory viruses and bacteria in hopes of ruling out serious pathogens that could present a public health threat.

Hajj, U.S.
Hajj in Saudi Arabia. Wikimedia Commons

Two of them tested positive for an especially virulent type of influenza A virus, and one of the two, who was gravely ill with pneumonia, was co-infected with another respiratory virus, Cetron said. A third person tested positive for a cold virus.

All three had taken part in the Hajj, which this year drew some 2 million people to Mecca, Cetron said.

Seven crew members, who boarded the flight in Dubai and were not at the pilgrimage, tested negative for a number of respiratory infections of public health concern, Cetron said. The next day, two flights arriving in Philadelphia from Europe were screened by medical teams after 12 passengers reported flu-like symptoms. One of them had visited Mecca for the Hajj.

Cetron said health officials in New York had been prepared to quarantine a large group of sick passengers in an area at the airport. From a total of 11 passengers taken to hospital for evaluation, 10 were tested for respiratory symptoms; one showed signs of food poisoning.

“It was a much smaller incident. That’s not uncommon,” Cetron said. “Often the incoming information from multiple sources can be exaggerated beyond what we really find.”

Hajj, U.S.
Muslim pilgrims walk in the Al-Safa direction (Safa and Marwah) where Muslims walk back and forth seven times during Tawaf al-Ifada as part of the annual haj pilgrimage rite at the grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, VOA

All 10 patients with respiratory symptoms tested negative for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, a highly infectious and deadly respiratory infection that was first identified in the Middle East in 2012.

The CDC was not alerted in advance about the two flights that landed in Philadelphia from Paris and Munich, but several travelers had complained of illness, triggering a “medical review” of 250 passengers from those flights, a spokesman said.

Twelve passengers were found to have sore throats and coughs, and one also tested positive for the flu, a CDC spokesman confirmed.

The responses were part of a well-rehearsed network of public health officials trained to identify and contain pathogens as U.S. airports and ports of entry, Cetron said.

“Our most critical issue was to rule several respiratory illnesses of urgent public health significance,” Cetron said.

US Airport
U.S. health officials sent an emergency response team with mobile diagnostic equipment to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Flickr

Cetron said the CDC monitors databases to track outbreaks of infectious disease that could post a treat in the United States. Although unlikely, MERS was definitely a concern that the team needed to rule out, he said.

Also Read: Google Takes Initiative to Clean and Make Our Planet Healthy

“That was a low-probability, high consequence event that we wanted to rule out,” he said.

The CDC said in a statement that the cases were a reminder that flu season is coming, and urged all U.S. citizens six months or older to get a flu shot by the end of October. (VOA)