The leading cause of deaths when hurricanes come ashore is storm surge. Storm surge is a wall of water that is pushed ashore ahead of the eye of the storm. These surges are particularly lethal to communities that are built on the shore line. Communities on the Gulf Coast and on the Atlantic Ocean are threatened when this occurs.
The situation is a little different on the Eastern Shore. Our ocean front is by and large undeveloped. In the early part of the last century, there were villages that popped up on our barrier islands, notably Assateague and Hog Island. The storm of 1933 changed all of that when most of the homes located at these two villages were destroyed by the storm surge. A few of the remaining buildings at Broadwater on Hog Island were moved to the village of Willis Wharf where they survive today.
The only developed island on the barrier island chain on the Eastern Shore is Wallops Island which is protected with millions of dollars worth of sea walls and dune maintenance. With the exception of Cedar Island which experienced a building boom in the early 80s only to have those homes consumed by the ocean, the barrier islands have remained in their natural state.
The purpose of the Barrier Islands in nature is to absorb the blows of the ocean and protect the mainland of the Eastern Shore. Should an approaching hurricane push a storm surge toward our Atlantic coast, the initial surge would be broken up by the islands.
The result would still be flooding in low lying seaside towns like Chincoteague, Greenbackville, Wachapreague, Quinby, Willis Wharf and Oyster. Buildings in the flood prone areas that haven’t been built up can be flooded but the type of flooding is not nearly as destructive as a storm surge on the Atlantic beach fronts.
The bayside is also susceptible to flooding. Many times as the center of a storm passes by, the winds on the back side of the storm come in from a westerly direction and literally blow water from the Chesapeake Bay up our bayside creeks. Areas such as Saxis, Sanford, Muddy Creek, Clam, Guilford, Hunting Creek, Deep Creek , Chesconessex, East Point, the Onancock Wharf area,Harborton, Bayford, Cape Charles and many of the developments on our bayside creeks will see flooding. If you live in a home constructed after 1960 or one that has been raised up, generally you won’t get water in the house. For houses in this area built close to the ground, you will experience flooding in your home. This flooding comes as a mini surge and can last up to three hours. but has, in the past subsided as the center of the storm moves away.
While this type of flooding does not often threaten lives like seaside beach storm surges, it does close roads in low lying areas making access by fire, EMS and police impossible until the water subsides. If power lines are down and submerged it could result in electrocution. Power outages for as long as three days depending on the extent of the damage shore wide can be anticipated.
Residents of the low lying areas on both the bay and seaside areas will have to decide whether they want to ride the storm out at home and risk being isolated for a time or evacuate to higher ground.
Much of the bay and seasides of the Eastern Shore are in evacuation zone 1. The state will likely issue and evacuation order for residents in these areas.
Visit the Hurricane Preparedness Guide on ShoreDailyNews.com, enter your 911 address and find out your own situation from which you can decide what you will do.
It is unlikely any police or other authority will force you to leave, but those agencies won’t be able to get to you in case of an emergency during the storm.