September 7, 2005
The destruction of Hurricane Katrina
was not limited to Louisiana and Mississippi. A storm surge
of 12 to 15 feet accompanied by high winds damaged the western
costal region of Alabama.
Dauphin Island, Alabama, was razed from the earth in places.
The western end of the island reeks of sewage and stagnate
water. The storm struck with such force that it ripped sewer
lines from the ground and left them in piles. Residents do
not have access to clean water, either, as the storm damaged
transmission lines and threw a water tower across the island.
The power infrastructure of the area did not fare much better.
Many poles were snapped from their bases, leaving what is
left of the roads covered in downed lines. A boat could be
seen in the Intercoastal Waterway replacing poles parallel
to the islands causeway. Some houses are relatively
intact, but the winds were so strong that they ripped others
off of their piling, rolling whole houses several hundred
yards. There is no evidence left of most other homes. Nothing
remains except the piling that raised the houses to protect
them from storm surge.
The area needs massive beach restoration work. The Army Corps
of Engineers likely will seek contractors to replace the extensive
erosion of both the north and south sides of the island. The
Ocean Warwick, an offshore oil platform some 60 miles offshore,
was blown inland and beached by Katrinas awesome winds.
Crews will face an interesting challenge bringing a boat close
enough into the shallow water to tow away the massive, severely
The mainland coast was destroyed similarly, despite the presence
of the barrier island. When a federal Homeland Security official
was asked about the condition of one coastal infrastructure,
he simply replied, "What infrastructure?"
Dauphin Island may hold an important lesson for other beachfront
communities. The eastern half of the island, though it saw
comparable winds and storm surge as the western half, escaped
the storm relatively unharmed. The island's eastern portion
is protected by a 30-ft manmade sand dune. These two facts
likely are not independent of one another. While the massive
dune is not the most aesthetically pleasing to its neighbors,
homes adjacent to the beach on the eastern end escaped with
some sand on the roof and flooding of the first floor.
For a link to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hurricane Katrina
press briefings click on http://www.usace.army.mil/