Extreme coastal flooding, primarily during hurricane strikes, has deposited sand-rich layers in Laguna Playa Grande, a back-barrier lagoon located on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Silici-clastic grain-size distributions within these overwash deposits fine landward (away from the barrier and toward the mainland). A simple advective-settling model can explain this pattern of lateral sorting and is used to constrain the relative magnitude of past flooding events. A deposit associated with the A.D. 1928 San Felipe hurricane is used as a modern analogue to test the technique, which produces reasonable estimates for wave heights that exceed the barrier during the event. A 5000 yr reconstruction of local flooding intensity is developed that provides a measure of the competence for each overwash event to transport coarser-grained sediment a fixed distance into the lagoon. This reconstruction indicates that although the Laguna Playa Grande record exhibits large-scale changes in hurricane frequency on centennial to millennial time scales, the magnitude of these events has stayed relatively constant. Over the last 5000 yr, no evidence exists for an anomalously large hurricane or tsunami event with a competence for sediment transport greater than historical hurricane events.

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