We continue our look at the Hurricane Problem in New York and New Jersey with a more detailed look at a particular portion of the Jersey Shore, the Northern Headlands region of Monmouth County. Over the past 20 years or so, this region, which covers most of Monmouth County, has become one of the most vulnerable regions of the Jersey coastline.
Not only does it lie in an area that is surrounded by a good deal of water in the Atlantic Ocean, Navesink River, and Shrewsbury River, it is becoming a more heavily populated region, particularly during the busy summer months when hurricane season is at its height. In addition, inland communities in this area are also at risk for the same reasons.
The growth in population in the coastal and inland communities of this particular region of the coast as well as problems with beach erosion provide, evacuation as well as mitigation risks. We'll start to take a closer look at the communities of this particular region with a general overview.
The Northern Headlands is located in Monmouth County. As a matter of fact it covers most of it. From the Northern Barrier Spit that makes up Sandy Hook in the North to the Northern Barrier Islands Complex to the south along the Ocean County border, the Northern Headlands make up a good deal of the 20 percent of the New Jersey shore that consists of headlands.
This region is made up of up of towns and communities such as Keyport, Hazlet, Red Bank, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Neptune, and Middletown. All of these towns have gradually built themselves up in recent years as they have attracted more business as well as residents, who wish to live near the coast. There are also the coastal communities of Sandy Hook and Sea Bright, which have been hit hard by coastal storms over the years.
One storm in particular back in 1984 caused some $84 million dollars in damage to the sea wall in Sea Bright, and since then, this community has also been hit hard by coastal storms such as Hurricane Gloria in 1985, the Halloween Storm in 1991, Nor'easters in January and December 1992, the Superstorm of '93, the Blizzard of 1996, and Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999.
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As previously mentioned the Northern Headlands covers much of Monmouth County. From Monmouth Beach in the North to Point Pleasant on the Ocean County Border in the South. This region is characterized by land, which usually has an elevation, which ranges between 15 and 25 feet above sea level.
They are most made up of narrow beaches, which are at the base of bluffs that have diminished in recent years due to the onslaught of beach erosion brought on by coastal storms. The characteristics of the sand in this region are usually very coarse, and consequently, that results in steeper beaches.
All of these factors can be traced back to the Coastal Plain formations in the region, which have also added to the erosion problem since they have not been consolidated. Towns in this region also have high property insurance values.
For example, if a Category Four Hurricane, or a Category Three Hurricane moving up the coast at a speed similar to the Long Island Express of 1938, hits the town of Asbury Park, it would cause some $51 billion dollars in damage.
In addition, the approach of a major hurricane would also strangle the roads in the region as the populations in many of these communities continue to grow and more and more tourists and vacationers visit this region every summer. This has brought about a serious evacuation problem as well.
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The population of a town such as Sea Bright in Monmouth County is much like that of the town of Avalon, New Jersey in Cape May County during the off season. According to the 2000 Census report, the population in Sea Bright has grown some 6.9% to approximately 1818 people during the off-season months.
However, during the summer months, that population grows considerably to at least 5,000 people during the peak season when hurricanes become a significant threat.
Back in 1985 the peak traffic flow estimated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation was six-tenths of an hour higher than capacity can allow during the busy months of the summer. That is only part of the picture.
There are also other towns nearby that use many of the same evacuation routes to get further inland away from harm. Places like the Atlantic Highlands which are also at risk in hurricanes and would also be a candidates for evacuation need the same roads that are used by people living in Sea Bright.
There is also the additional problem brought on by Sandy Hook to take into account. On a good summer weekend with good weather prior to a threatening storm, there could be tens of thousands of people on Sandy Hook's beaches who would add to the difficulty of Sea Bright's evacuation.
In addition, there has been more building in the Sea Bright area. This increased developed over the past 15 to 20 years coupled with more year-round occupancies, brings about a very serious problem.
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