The high winds and heavy seas churned up by last week’s storms, combined with the extreme high tides during the “blood moon,” reopened the recently closed breach in Norton Point Beach, once again making the On-Time ferries the only way to access Chappaquiddick.
“Our staff noticed the overwashing when we had the strong southeast winds from last week’s storm,” Trustees of the Reservations (TTOR) superintendent Chris Kennedy told The Times. The subsequent nor’easter over the weekend widened the breach.
“Over the next several days, it widened to 150 yards or so, but it’s been steadily filling in,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Right now the channel is only 10 feet wide, and at extreme low tide it’s about five feet deep. If someone called me tomorrow and said it was closed, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
A video of the breach, which also shows a fisherman catching a small striper, can be found on the TTOR Facebook page. “Fishermen are catching a lot of stripers at the breach,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Nothing big, but there’s a lot of schoolies being caught.”
Mr. Kennedy said the breach could well open and close again several times over the winter. “It’s a very dynamic area,” he said. “This last storm pushed Norton Point Beach 100 feet closer to Wasque. It’s amazing how much sand was moved by one storm.”
In April 2007 a one-two punch of storm-driven ocean waves and powerful spring tides knocked open a substantial cut in the beach. The result was two long, narrow spits of sand stretching east and west toward one another. The cut continued to migrate eastward to Wasque Point, in a natural cycle recorded many times in the past four centuries.
On April 1 of this year, Jack Klumick, assistant superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), was the first person to walk from Katama to Chappaquiddick since the 2007 breach.
The Woods Hole Group (WHG), an international environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting organization headquartered in Falmouth, recently prepared an eight-page analysis that described the three-stage natural history of periodic breaks in Norton Point Beach. In the first stage, ocean waves and tidal levels combine to punch a hole in vulnerable spots in the barrier beach. During stage 2, the inlet begins to migrate east toward Chappaquiddick, and the dominant easterly-flowing shoreline current causes the Norton Point spit to grow. As that spit extends to the east, the barrier beach on the Chappy side of the inlet tends to shorten and erode. The process of easterly inlet migration and barrier spit growth occurs until the eastern barrier is completely eroded and Norton Point begins to overlap the southwest corner of Chappaquiddick. During this middle phase of stage 2, the absence of a sediment source from the west, in combination with tidal currents directed against Chappaquiddick, causes rapid erosion of the south-facing shoreline. In stage 3, the tidal channel that connects Katama Bay to the Atlantic Ocean eventually closes, as tidal currents are not strong enough to flush sediment from the opening. Waves gradually push the Norton Point barrier spit to the north, and the beach eventually welds onto Chappaquiddick. Finally, during the last part of stage 3, the beach/dune system begins to retreat as ocean waves, tides, and currents cause erosion. The process continues until a new breach in the Katama Bay barrier forms, and then the cycle starts over