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As storm approaches DC region, Chesapeake Bay towns brace for possible beach erosion

Both the Calvert County communities of North Beach and Chesapeake Beach provided residents with sandbags in advance of this weekend's storm.

CHESAPEAKE BEACH, Md. — As the D.C. region prepares for the remnants of Hurricane Ian to batter the area, one Maryland county is considering the long-term consequences the weekend’s weather might bring.

On Friday, many Calvert County residents, and locals in Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, spent time picking up sandbags to protect their homes from flood water.

North Beach Mayor Mike Benton handed out sandbags at his town’s department of public works office with his fellow staff.

He said if North Beach receives more than an inch-and-a-half of rain from this weekend’s storm, he would not be surprised to see flooding around the boardwalk area in his community.

“With what our residents are going through right now, it’s something we need to do our best to help them with,” he said.

Both Chesapeake Beach and North Beach are concerned about northeast winds from the Chesapeake Bay pushing water into homes and businesses in their communities.

Benton said he is particularly worried about stormwater coming down from the western hills of Calvert County and collecting in his town.

“When the stormwater goes out, it’s trying to compete with the bay water as it comes in,” he said.

Chesapeake Beach Mayor Pat Mahoney lives next to the water. He said while he does not live water level, he is still greatly worried about the potential impacts of storms like Ian.

“I don’t live water level, but most of the town does and it’s pretty scary if water is going to come in your basement and the power’s out, it’s not so pleasant,” he said.

Mahoney said the recurrent combination of tidal flooding and tropical weather has eroded beaches up and down the Calvert County coast. Maryland’s famous Calvert Cliffs have even eroded into the bay.

He said beach erosion and climate change threaten the area’s future tourism and commercial prospects.

"The citizens take it seriously,” Mahoney said. “We went through about 300 sandbags in about an hour [Friday]. We put out another 200 just to be sure.”

Benton adds that erosion is happening at a rapid rate too.

He said the beachfront in his community has eroded by more than 15 feet over the last 13 years.

One thing is for sure: Calvert County, Chesapeake Beach, and North Beach are working to address environmental issues as much as possible.

Benton said North Beach has setup a committee focused on issues brought forth by floodwater. He added his community has also worked to install natural, living shorelines, cleaned out clogged pipes, and created a new flood plan to confront flooding problems.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake Beach has created a coastal resiliency steering group and made their infrastructure and utility systems more resilient to address erosion and flooding issues locally.

Chesapeake Beach Council Vice-President Larry Jaworski said he took a course to become a certified climate change professional to get a better understanding of the issues his community faces.

He said it’s important both Chesapeake Beach and North Beach work and communicate together to become more resilient.

"We want to make sure the towns are working in concert with one another to make sure one town doesn't do something that adversely impacts the other town," Jaworski said.

However, he adds there are no quick fixes to the situation that has confronted Calvert County’s coastal communities.

Jaworski said even land reclamation efforts can present problems.

“It’s a difficult call to make, because if you fill-in, what you’re doing is diverting that water to go someplace else,” he said.

For now, boardwalk businesses like Chesapeake’s Bounty, in North Beach, are not putting sandbags out in front of their doors.

“The bounty’s pretty good, we have not had flooding in this building since Hurricane Isabel,” said manager Veronica Cristo.

However, she added that she hopes the local beaches aren’t damaged to badly during this storm for the sake of the local community.

“The beach is definitely an important part of North Beach,” Cristo said. “It’s really an important part of what people identify North Beach for.”

Sandbags will also be made available to residents throughout Calvert County over the weekend.

They can be found at the locations below:

Calvert County: 

  • Appeal Convenience Center (200 Sweetwater Road, Lusby)
    Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Barstow Convenience Center (350 Stafford Road, Barstow)
    Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.
  • Mt. Hope Convenience Center (96 Pushaw Station Road, Sunderland)
    Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

County staff will be available to assist. Sandbags are limited to 20 per person.

Chesapeake Beach:

“Sandbags are limited to (10) ten per household. Residents can access sand at the Kellam's complex parking area - please be sure to put the brick back onto the bags so that they do not blow away. Town resident sand bag pick up location at the Kellams complex. Please contact Town Hall at (410) 257-2230 with any questions.”

North Beach:

Mayor Mike Benton says sandbags will be made available at North Beach’s Department of Public Works building, if needed, over the weekend.

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