Abstract

The northern (most energetic) quadrant of Hurricane Andrew (August 1992) passed over leeward-margin sand waves, bank-top sand shoals, reefs, and low islands of Great Bahama Bank for which an extensive prestorm data base exists. A reconnaissance survey seven weeks after Hurricane Andrew evaluated storm impacts on these bank-top settings. Resurveyed seismic profiles showed that positions, dimensions, and orientations of platform sand bodies were unchanged relative to fixed bedrock features. Surveys of reef communities indicated only minor storm-related disturbance. Coral bleaching may be due to storm-induced environmental stress. In addition, storm-wave plucking of boulders from emergent rocky cays resulted in localized crushing of reef biota. On low islands, beach erosion and storm surge were insignificant, and storm damage to Casuarina forests was minor and substrate-specific. Observed minimal hurricane impacts on northern Great Bahama Bank environments lying 10-75 km from the hurricane eye are reconciled by analysis of meteorological data, which show significant weakening of the storm (expressed as a rise in central barometric pressure of ∼20 mbar) during passage across the bank-top. This study demonstrates the importance of specific dynamic aspects of hurricanes (e.g., varying intensity, strength, size, forward speed, duration) which influence their geologic potential, even over relatively short distances along the storm track of an individual hurricane.

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