After the Storm - Conservation Update

Our conservation staff has been hard at work this past month surveying the damage that Hurricane Florence left behind.  Here is an overlook of some of the data we have collected so far:

Florence Wind & Rain Statistics

Emily Goetz, Coastal Scientist

As Hurricane Florence approached Bald Head Island, many tuned in to the BHI Conservancy website to observe live wind and precipitation data recorded by island weather stations. The weather station just behind the BHI Conservancy, protected by the dune ridge and forest canopy, recorded a sustained wind speed of 54 mph around 2:00PM on Friday, 9/14, with gusts of over 66 mph. Over 5.5 inches of rain fell at the Conservancy on Friday alone. The Conservancy weather station stopped transmitting data on Saturday morning. The South Beach weather station, set up as part of a UNC Wilmington beach hydrology study, recorded data throughout the hurricane and its aftermath, despite being completely exposed to storm surge and beach winds! The highest sustained wind recorded on South Beach was about 64 mph, with gusts of 84 mph. From September 13-16, the weather station recorded 19.13 inches of rain on South Beach.

Hurricane-Related Tree Losses on Bald Head Island
Elizabeth S. Darrow, Ph. D., Senior Scientist
Bald Head Island Conservancy was approached by the Village of BHI to help with estimates of numbers of trees lost or damaged by Hurricane Florence. This will aid in a state-wide application for federal funds to assist with debris removal and tree re-planting in residential and commercial areas of the Island. Our interns conducted surveys of a few residential areas throughout the island that were bounded by roads, including Currituck, Maritime, Bay Tree, and Dowitcher. ranging in area from 3-10 acres. An area of Middle Island was also surveyed. We avoided the marsh and golf courses and did not include the Bald Head Woods Coastal Reserve in our count estimates or area calculations. Counts were made in each area of all recently uprooted or downed trees (counted as dead) and all trees that had major damage such as limbs down or flooding damage (counted as impacted).
The median number of trees lost across the four areas on BHI proper was 7.3 trees per acre and number of trees with crown damage was an additional 6.8 trees per acre. On Middle Island, 6.2 trees per acre were dead and 11.3 trees per acre were otherwise damaged. Depending on the amount of cleanup that had already occurred at each site, which made it difficult to estimate recent mortality, the mortality number could range from 3 to 27 trees per acre. Scaled-up total loss of trees was a median of 4,000 trees lost for Bald Head Island proper, not including the Coastal Reserve, with an additional 1,000 trees lost on Middle Island. Mortality estimates ranged from 2,000 to 16,000 trees, depending on the site. A further 4,000 trees had non-mortality impacts on BHI (5,000 when including Middle Island). The Village of Bald Head Island estimates that 35,000 cubic yards of tree debris is currently being removed from residential and commercial areas and mulched on-island. This is a conservative estimate, since not all homeowners have begun the cleanup process.

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