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Hurricane Rita and the destruction of Holly Beach, Louisiana: Why the chenier plain is vulnerable to storms

By
Asbury H. Sallenger
Asbury H. Sallenger
U.S. Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
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C.W. Wright
C.W. Wright
U.S. Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
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Kara Doran
Kara Doran
U.S. Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
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Kristy Guy
Kristy Guy
U.S. Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
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Karen Morgan
Karen Morgan
U.S. Geological Survey, 600 4th Street South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2009

Hurricane Rita devastated gulf-front communities along the western Louisiana coast in 2005. LIDAR (light detection and ranging) topographic surveys and aerial photography collected before and after the storm showed the loss of every structure within the community of Holly Beach. Average shoreline change along western Louisiana's 140-km-long impacted shore was −23.3 ± 30.1 m of erosion, although shoreline change in Holly Beach was substantially less, and erosion was not pervasive where the structures were lost. Before the storm, peak elevations of the dunes, or berms in the absence of dunes, along the impacted shore averaged 1.6 m. The storm surge, which reached 3.5 m just east of Holly Beach, completely inundated the beach systems along the impacted western Louisiana shore. The high surge potential and low land elevations make this coast extremely vulnerable to hurricanes. In fact, most of the western Louisiana shore impacted by Rita will be completely inundated by the storm surge of a worst-case Saffir-Simpson category 1 hurricane. All of this shore will be inundated by worst-case category 2–5 storms.

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GSA Special Papers

America's Most Vulnerable Coastal Communities

Joseph T. Kelley
Joseph T. Kelley
University of Maine, Department of Earth Sciences, Orono, Maine, USA
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Orrin H. Pilkey
Orrin H. Pilkey
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
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J. Andrew
J. Andrew
Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK
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G. Cooper
G. Cooper
Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK
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Geological Society of America
Volume
460
ISBN print:
9780813724607
Publication date:
January 01, 2009

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