Hurricane Ian’s erosion impact on Sanibel

Published: December 6, 2022 8:32 PM EST
Updated: December 7, 2022 7:11 AM EST

The City of Sanibel released an initial erosion assessment, and the signs of what Hurricane Ian did to the coast near the city are becoming clearer.

The City of Sanibel’s strategy in the past has been to let nature take its course.

Unlike many other islands, Sanibel had not needed to undergo large-scale beach restoration due to its overall stable beaches and management strategies.

Sanibel beach erosion. CREDIT: WINK News

Sanibel surveys its beaches to monitor coastal erosion yearly.

Humiston and Moore Engineers completed one a few days before Ian to give an accurate look at how the Category 4 storm changed the landscape.

Lighthouse Point, at the southeast end of Sanibel, experienced significant erosion on the Gulf side.

This resulted in the tragic loss of both caretaker’s cottages and the oil house.

The historic lighthouse remained intact for the most part despite losing a leg.

Eroded sand has not left the system but was overwashed onto land covering Gulf front property and roadways.

The city said this will recover naturally with waves and currents.

Over time, the areas affected will need to be planted with native, dune-stabilizing vegetation.

Dr. Carie Schuman, the Sanibel Captiva conservation foundation coastal resilience manager, spoke with WINK News about this.

“The dunes themselves also can serve as wind and wave energy breaks. The vegetation that’s on them also can help do some of that as well. These systems also, they take the brunt of that energy,” Schuman said. “Essentially, they serve as, like, a first line of defense. So they’re taking more of that energy instead of maybe the infrastructure that’s directly behind them.”

To help facilitate beach recovery, overwashed clean sand may be returned to upland portions of the beach where dunes existed previously.