This week we just have to talk storm. Oh, quit your moaning, class. I’ll make this as painless as possible – while still whetting your interest whistle.
I have to begin with this winter, overall. I’ll lead in by paraphrasing the immortal words of Dickens. No, not Charles. I’m talkin’ Hal Dickens over on 23rd Street. He waxes poetic with a tale of two winters: It was the mildest of times; it was the iciest of times. Truer words were never spoken – except, maybe, that Hershey still makes the best chocolate in the world.
This winter’s ping-pongishness has global-warming theorists reeling.
During this past mildest-ever December, those doomsayers extolled their own insights by shouting to the rooftops, “The warmth is coming! The warmth is coming! We warned you, blasphemers. Three cheers for us!” Now that one of the nastier and colder Januarys has kicked in, they’re suddenly all, “The cold is coming! The cold is coming! Just like we warned you …” Etc. Etc.
There, I’m done my obligatory global-warming bashing. I will now extend my fully affirmable theory that growingly savage storms are a predictable certainty, far more so than brazenly trying to predict entire globally warmed seasons.
Rehash: Ocean surfaces are demonstrably warmer than ever, leading to evaporation levels through the ceiling. A rising moisture overload means crazed instability in the atmosphere. That spells s-t-o-r-m-s – as a dazed and confused atmosphere tries to shake off whatever the hell is attacking it from down below, i.e. humanity.
I should note here that such atmospheric uprisings can also include Death Valley-grade droughts, as the skies unleash moisture before it can reach those places it traditionally drenches. It becomes a case of wet becomes dry, dry becomes wet … “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!,” per Dr. Peter Venkman.
This is not to say we’ll surely be getting “X” number of wilder and woollier-mammothed storms, come this year or next, or whatever follows “next.” There’s no guessing – though sometimes I still do.
For the umpteenth time: Climate change manifestations cannot be micromanaged … or micro-forecasted. Also, the atmosphere is a card-carrying, first-class croupier. It never offers so much as a hint at what it’ll be dealing out. We won’t know what we’re being dealt until we sneak a peek – and find a seven-card forecast … with all the computer models agreeing that this coming Friday might flush us with a low-pressure system hosting isobars so tightly packed that even Elaine with airport security is afraid to open it up to check for smuggled fluorocarbons. Wow, from the upper atmosphere to Elaine in airport security, which proves just how complicated all this sh …tuff is.
Weather Channel-named Jonas – the Weather Service does not name winter storms – was one highly aggravating storm for us. But – dare I say it? – he was far more drama than damage; more hype than hit; more beach than, uh, barn. Hey, I had to keep the alliteration thing going. Face it; the bloody blizzard just wasn’t a barnburner.
AGGRAVATION, BY NAME: The Blizzard of January 2016 began its swath of aggravation as it inch-wormed across the Southeast and slowly slid out over the ocean. Its sluggishness afforded way too much time for social media devotees to offer I heard/she heard forecasting updates – beginning a frickin’ week ahead of time and building to a deafening crescendo, oft mimicking, “We’re all gonna die!”
Despite data overload, I tried my best to stay within sensible forecast bounds. I was mightily certain Jonas would not be a major ballbuster for all but our dunes and beaches. I did warn from very early on that bad tides were rising for Ocean City and Cape May. The northeast winds with the blizzard were from an angle that clobbers areas south of AC.
For me, the aggravation of a momentarily changed lifestyle and Boulevard-hiding high tides was allayed by some cool visual uniqueness. Based on looks alone, I’ve placed Jonas near (but not within) the top-10 nor’easters I’ve seen over a 50-year storm stretch.
The storm’s out-there look came via its frozen components. Hey, many of you were here. You have to admit that the early-arriving snow and ice, once afloat, added a uniquely Arctic-or-something look to the flooding. The micro ice floes sure spiced up the three million street photos that washed over social media. I got some decidedly bizarre videos of vehicles forcing their way through daiquiri flood conditions.
Far less cool, the Holgate refuge area became, and remains, a freak-sight factory. (More below on that ruinous south end beach hit.)
Another notable chunk of visual uniqueness was exposed as the storm’s 60-mph northeast winds insatiably attacked our lengthy stretches of replenished beachline, particularly the recently-done sectors of Long Beach Township. Cliffs of Dover-like cutaways were left behind for public works to somehow manually repair. The Holgate oceanfront home zone is now getting trucked-in sand for a Band-Aid fix to its never-been-adequate dunes.
By the by, the oceanfront homes in Holgate were never in danger, though the news media had them all but falling into the ocean. Flashing back, I was right there after Sandy and those houses were sky-high on pilings … but safe. The real danger thereabout is when the ocean breaks through and goes after houses to the west.
Which is the perfect segue into the finger pointing being aimed toward Great Lakes Dredging, which seemingly abandoned replenishing LBI in the name of sweeter digs. The pointing has gone from forefinger to middle finger.
UNGREAT LAKES: I have to think that Great Lakes bolting action has risked LBI’s little guys – a group of which I’m proudly one. I live within the Island’s vulnerable midsection, huddled within my ground-level, 200-block, Ship Bottom home of over 50 years.
My entire fight for beach and dune replenishment has never once been with the ocean-fronters in mind. They have enough money to be on their own minds. While many/most of us reside a goodly distance from the ocean’s edge, that doesn’t mean the dunes aren’t heavily on our side, as a line of defense and offering an everyday sense of security.
Yes, the bay can also sneak up and swallow my digs in one fell gulp. However, five decades of LBI storm-life have shown me that bay flooding arrives at a slow slither, escapably so. When the ocean arrives – along with its debris friends – there’s just no going one-on-one with it. The Great March Storm, an ocean-to-bay washover event, forearmed entire houses hither and yon.
About-facing to the upside of the gnarly, 36-hour nor’easter, the Army Corps dunes held like nobody’s business, despite being gouged in some places. That nor’easter was exactly why the dunes and beaches were built – for storms!
It truly pains me to hear those who now rant, “Look, your replenished beaches are gone. What a waste of money.”
Those monkeys must simply hate New Jersey. They are clueless to the fact that if that save-the-beach funding doesn’t come our way, it will go to some Kansas congressman’s supercollider project. Or, more painfully yet, those numbnuts might think that relinquishing the funding for NJ beach replenishment will somehow get them a big refund check from Uncle Sam?! Pardon me until I stop laughing … in a mocking manner.
OK, I’ll back off that ongoing rant by assuring the beaches will soon be inching back, all, “Is it safe now?”
The dunes? What a job they did. If anything, they’ve proven living an LBI lifestyle is better behind big-ass dunes. Let’s make sure they rise back up to their former glory.
THAT SINKING FEELING LINGERS: It might seem like I’m talking as if we didn’t have any serious/major flooding, a la blizzard. We did. Photo proof abounds. We simply didn’t have any catastrophic flooding.
The Island did suffer an insidious degradation, via more stinkin’ sinkin’.
By my thinking, each full-blown flood episode is making future floods worse, by literally weighing down the earth beneath LBI’s feet.
I’ve been fearing that sinking feeling all along. But why would a flood weigh things down more than cars, trucks, houses and really heavy folks?
I’ll answer that with a science shocker: 1 cubic yard of water (yd3) weighs 1,685.55 pounds. Water in flood zones is easily three feet deep. Even the largest and weightiest building have their weight craftily spread out. A flood’s weight crushes downward, holistically. Then, add in the fact the ground is waterlogged. The press down is even more compressive. I have to admit this all points to everything of an LBI nature needing to be on pilings. Geez, there’s a novel concept, right?
HOLGATE DAZE: Holgate, as it was most recently known, is no more … thanks to the storm. Its onetime beach area has, in a weird way, been grown over.
Storm waves to 20 feet quickly ate what little beach was there. It left behind the bones of its meal: miles of grotesquely twisted blackened branches and sickly-yellow bamboo-like root systems. Those are the dead remains of far happier, heavily-vegetated Holgate days.
As of now, buggyists are dead in their tracks. The entrance is closed. Where we once drove to reach Island’s end is now an impenetrable “dead forest” … an obstacle course, offering buggyists no recourse except to turn around and head home – tailpipes between their legs. Here’s hoping the sand returns enough to at least allow low-tide vehicular passage, at the water’s edge. Passage at high tide? Forgetaboutit.
I’m sure there are some folks deriving pleasure from the sudden plight of south end mobile fishermen. Well, you might want to think that thoroughly through. The entire Holgate erosion thing, particularly the washing away of huge tracts of once-vegetated refuge land, could surely open legal books – the ones that base property lines of ownership on the mean high tide water marks.
As of now, huge chunks of the Wilderness Area could be legally reverting back to state ownership.
I do NOT want that. I kid you not. State or township ownership could leave the property vulnerable to real estate shenanigans, though it was pointed out to me that the state does quite decently at running and preserving Island Beach State Park.
INLET AIN’T HAPPENING: Bottomed-out mariners are yet another user-group that wouldn’t mind seeing Holgate split asunder. They somehow envision a new and nearer inlet – right about where the erosion is taking place.
I’d throw it into neutral if I were you, lads.
There is little chance of a new inlet opening in the washover zone. Instant-inlet seekers will instead get more frickin’ sand and silt reaching bayside, further filling in the already shallow channels.
Related E-question: Jay, what’s the reasoning behind this washover lessening the chance of a new inlet forming? Looks to me as if it’s trying to happen.
If all arriving storm energy was being aimed at a small cut-across point, a channel could form. Not happening. In fact, ocean energy is now being further diffused across a massive erosion plain – nearly a quarter mile of what has become a sand wasteland, denuded of all vegetation. What’s more, the erosion is simultaneously filling in meadows and tidelands toward the west. There are signs/markers on the west side of the refuge proving that sand migration. Face it, this erosion is in it for the long run – and until it forms a new Tucker’s Island-type set-up.
Go to jaymanntoday.ning.com – or simply Google “jay mann fishing” – to see this video, showing the astounding post-blizzard washover.
I call the blizzard a “five-year” storm for Holgate. Oh, that has nothing to do with the pretty much inane way scientists try to arbitrarily assign storms a frequency rating. That system can run the gamut from a one-year storm – expected every one year, duh? – to a point where I get dizzy just thinking about it, namely: the million-year storm.
Hey, don’t snicker – or do it very cautiously. Logic alone dictates a 1,000,000-year storm either has, or must, occur. Here’s hoping that sucker already hit – say, a solid 999,000 years ago or so.
My personalized five-year-storm rating for the blizzard is a whole other Holgate animal – and far more affirmable. Mathematically speaking, it pushed Holgate’s erosion ahead by five years. You can see where that’s going, right? It would have taken five years of non-traumatic erosion to do what this storm did lickety-split. (I have no idea why “lickety-split” jumped to mind. For all know it now has a PG rating.)
SNOW DEAD; OWL LIVES: As I hiked the far south end after the blizzard departed, I was trudging through gnarly, dead vegetation when I spotted something roundish and white on the sand up ahead. I stopped dead in my tracks. A dagger’s worth of dread dug into my spine. It sure as hell looked like a very-deceased snowy owl.
Holy, Jack crap! Our darling owl had bit the sand.
And how would I gently break this avian tragedy to insanely sensitive birders and easily tear-jerked souls on Facebook? This would be an owl obit from hell.
Calling on my end-around side, I pondered simply burying the sucker, right there where it crashed. I could then energetically tell folks, “That dang storm chased off our good-old snowy owl. You know, kids, dollars to donuts he’s back up north happily eating lemming by now. … What’s that? Yes, jelly donuts sound like a great idea. Let’s go.”
I inched toward the potentially tragic patch of whiteness – squinting, as to not be over-traumatized upon a close-up look. And, just like that, my dead-owl dread melted away. It was just an owl-shaped blotch of defiant snowfall.
As I moved southward, more and more non-dead-owl snow patches appeared, proving the far south end hadn’t been overwashed. It was whiter and whiter the farther south I went.
Now you wanna know if our snowy owl was happily tucked somewhere within the still-growing dunelands near the Rip. Got me. There coulda been enough snowys on those dunes to open an owl feather-pillow factory; I wouldn’t have seen them. I’ll simply wait for the snow to melt – or the birdwatching heavies to head down there – and then I’ll let you know what’s what. Facebook me to get real-time updates.
As to other Holgate wildlife: I saw fresh, post-storm tracks proving those recently arrived otters were out and frolicking about after the blow. They love their snow. There were also signs of at least two, possibly paired, adult foxes, along with at least one youngster fox. Oddly, there were also some rabbit tracks. I’m betting that cottontail won’t be hanging down there very long – unless it has switched to eating the likes of mussels and periwinkles.
– Reposted from The Sandpaper