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Alex Smith, Brianna Lunardi, Elizabeth GeorgePost-doctoral fellow Alex Smith and graduate students Brianna Lunardi and Elizabeth George of UWindsor’s Coastal Research Group are in Prince Edward Island surveying the damage to beaches in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

UWindsor researchers surveying damage to PEI beaches by Hurricane Dorian

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, researchers from the University of Windsor are on the storm-ravaged beaches of Prince Edward Island assessing the damage.

Post-doctoral fellow Alex Smith and graduate students Brianna Lunardi and Elizabeth George ─ members of science dean Chris Houser’s Coastal Research Group ─ arrived in Brackley Beach on the island’s north shore on the weekend.

“UWindsor is conducting these surveys to capture the amount of erosion following the storm,” Dr. Houser said.

The group first flew a drone over the shoreline to survey the devastation from the air. Over the next week, they will move on to Cavendish and Stanhope, also on the north shore.

Hurricane Dorian formed on Aug. 24, reaching the Caribbean two days later. It devastated the northwestern Bahamas before moving up the U.S. coast into Atlantic Canada.

Early surveys by Parks Canada estimate about two metres of P.E.I.’s northern coastline eroded in the storm. Structures and approximately 80 per cent of the trees in the Cavendish part of the P.E.I. National Park have been swept into the ocean.

UWindsor researches wanted to set out earlier, but they were hindered by downed power lines and closed roads, Houser explained.

The Coastal Research Group was in P.E.I. just weeks ago, mapping the beaches and collecting data on sand dunes. George was supposed to pick up on that research this fall, collecting drone data to determine where beaches end and where sand dunes begin. She has quickly shifted gears and will instead study how dunes recover after major storms like Dorian.

“It’s so important to see how these storms affect the coast and what that means for the resiliency of these systems,” Houser said.

Houser suspects his group was the last to survey the beaches before Dorian hit and is now the first to study the storm’s aftermath in depth.

He said Dorian makes him think back to his early career, when in 2004, he moved to Pensacola, Fla., just as Hurricane Ivan was making landfall. His was the only survey of the Pensacola beaches before the storm and the only one after.

He later studied beaches in the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and Dennis, and tropical storms Arlene and Cindy.

─ Sarah Sacheli

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