in coastal regions and in small islands
Hurricane impact on beaches in the eastern Caribbean Islands 1989 - 1995
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the 1995 hurricanes caused
severe beach erosion in the eastern Caribbean Islands :
British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts Nevis, Antigua Barbuda,
Montserrat and Dominica. Beaches
in other islands, such as St. Thomas and St. Maarten, were also impacted,
but no data on beach changes exists for these countries.
The variation in beach changes was enormous, some beaches
were completely stripped of sand leaving only a bare rock platform, other
beaches actually accreted. Nevertheless
when the data were averaged, each island showed severe erosion.
Beach volumes decreased on average by 28% after the 1995 storms.
The hurricanes also caused retreat of the land edge or
sand dune behind the beach. This
coastline retreat is viewed as a “permanent” change.
There was an inverse relationship between the amount of coastline
retreat and the distance from the storm centre.
Within 0 and 40 km of the centre of a category 4 hurricane, the
average coastline retreat was between 18 and 5 m.
Within 40 and 180 km of the hurricane centre the average coastline
retreat was between 5 and 2 m. These
average figures mask considerable ranges.
The highest coastline retreat recorded was at Meads Bay, Anguilla
where the dune edge retreated 30 m inland.
Other factors besides the proximity to the hurricane
centre, affect the amount of coastal erosion.
These factors include the characteristics of a particular hurricane
particularly the position of the strongest sector relative to the island,
coastline shape, width of the offshore shelf and local features such as
In two islands affected by category 4 hurricanes in 1989
and 1995 for which data exist, the magnitude of the beach erosion was
similar during each event. In
addition the geographical variation in the beach erosion in each island was
the same in 1989 as in 1995.
Major beach recovery takes place in the months immediately
after the hurricane. Data from
four islands showed that within eight months of the hurricane, the beaches
had recovered to 90% of their pre-hurricane levels.
Although major beach recovery takes place immediately
after the hurricane, analysis of longer term trends from islands affected by
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 showed that the beaches did not fully recover to
their pre-hurricane levels.
At some isolated sites, particularly in St. Kitts and
Antigua, exposure of new beachrock ledges during the hurricane appeared to
be impeding beach recovery.
Conservation of beaches in the eastern Caribbean Islands
is fundamental to the region’s economic and social well being.
These small islands should be encouraged and assisted to develop and
implement beach management strategies within the overall framework of integrated
coastal management (ICM) such that the present crisis management approach to
beach conservation is avoided. In
the context of this report which deals specifically with beach erosion, it is
necessary to consider management options for certain coastal stretches.
For instance certain coastal stretches with a high level of beachfront
infrastructure, e.g. Dickenson Bay in Antigua, may need some form of coastal
protection (hard or soft engineering solutions) in the future, while other
stretches, e.g. Palm Bay in Barbuda, where there is very little beachfront
development, may be left to erode. Such decisions can only be effective within a
framework of ICM.
Against this background, recommendations are developed to
address the following:
education and awareness.
the background of information presented in this report, review existing coastal
development setbacks for the small islands of the eastern Caribbean.
If necessary, design and implement new setback guidelines for each
country based on the concept of variable concepts for individual beaches.
Recently designed setback guidelines for Anguilla which incorporate
several factors, including hurricane impact, into the setback computation may
serve as a framework (Cambers,
recommendation is in keeping with that proposed by the workshop on “Integrated framework for the management of beach resources within the
smaller Caribbean Islands”
case studies relating to post-hurricane beach recovery where engineering
solutions have been implemented.
the existing beach monitoring programmes and strengthen the beach change
databases in each island. This will
involve capacity building and the involvement of several different agencies e.g.
environment, planning and public works. Again
this recommendation is in keeping with that proposed by the workshop on “Integrated framework for the management of beach resources within the
smaller Caribbean Islands”
the programme to other small Caribbean islands not presently included.
that the information on hurricane impacts on coastal and beach resources is
available to every citizen in the islands.
In particular target special interest groups, such as coastal land
owners, hotel owners, tourism associations, fishing communities, with
information on the impacts of hurricanes on their coastal and beach resources.
information and training relating to coastal defence options, to include hard
and soft engineering solutions, to planning and other government agencies, as
well as the special interest groups outlined in c) (i) above.