Barrier islands and hurricanes has a timely article: Ike Underscores Foolishness of Building on Barrier Islands.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many (including me) questioned the wisdom of having a city in a sinking swamp along a river that would rather run in a different channel. I’m not saying I’m in favor of abandoning New Orleans now that its there, though that option should at least be on the table. Knowing what we know now, we would not choose the land between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain for a major city.

The same goes for building cities on barrier islands: long, linear islands that run parallel to much of the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Look at a map of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, or Long Island of New York, and you will see these stringy islands along the coastlines. These sandy islands seldom have high points more than one or two meters above sea level, and naturally change a bit with each major storm. Many of our beach resorts are found on these low-lying islands: South Padre Island, Galveston, Gulf Shores, Daytona Beach, Hilton Head Island, Atlantic City; and others are magnets for beach lovers, such as Padre Island and Cape Hattaras.

These barrier islands are rather dangerous places to build resorts, hotels, and beach houses for a number of reasons:

  • They are made almost entirely of sand, with no bedrock.
  • They have low elevations, making them vulnerable to being washed completely over in storms.
  • Being made of sand, they naturally change their shape over time, especially when hit by major storms.

Questions: If destroyed, should Galveston be rebuilt? Who should pay for it? If it is rebuilt, should it be with the understanding that the government and insurance won’t pay for its reconstruction again?

Continue to pray for the areas affected by Hurricane Ike, and for those helping them.

Image: Galveston Island (the “A” is on the city of Galveston) from

Grace and Peace

[Update 9/12/08: The Houston Chronicle science blog writer says:

Sensing the danger, the weather service was left to writing messages such as, “Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will face certain death. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere.”

Unfortunately this may now come to pass on an island where more than 20,000 people remain to ride out a monster hurricane.

It is sad to see so many staying despite the warning of “certain death.”]

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