Liquid Lines

Floods, Drilling and Surf Access, But It’s Not All Heavy as We End Summer

Tropical Storm Irma Whips Up for Last Hurrah
By JON COEN | Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Marc Halikas There’s a lot of serious business this week, but we’re still going to end the summer with fun.

So this weekend, my bud pulls up on the beach with the greatest homemade beach cart ever. Like a lot of local surfers, his kids are growing up. And like most of us, he wants to raise little watermen. He got ahold of this light-duty wheelbarrow and bolted on a homemade PVC rack to haul the beach chairs, fishing poles, umbrella, surfboards, etc.

As spouses do, his wife has been razzing him for it. But all the other guys were standing around it on Sunday, admiring his ingenuity. What was there to make fun of? We were not only mentally designing our own beach carts specific to our own needs, but also secretly trying to one-up his work. I figure by next summer, there are gonna be a dozen hot rods up there with 10-inch tires, multiple surf racks and solar-powered fans to dry towels.

The proof of his ingenuity wasn’t in our admiration/envy, but in his 8-year-old son, who spent a few consecutive days catching waves on his own at lower tide and reeling in dozens of snapper blues and fluke in the hole next to the sandbar at higher tides. Those are opportunities that kid might not have if Dad didn’t lug his soft top and light tackle from the truck to the shoreline. That cart deserves an award.

I sure wish I could run through the inane possibilities for DIY sand transport systems here, but there’s just toooooo much to talk about this week.

DON’T MESS WITH THE BIG MESS IN TEXAS: Hurricane Harvey has been absolutely brutal to the folks in Texas. I hesitate to say “has been,” actually, as it could douse the Lone Star State for another day or two after The SandPaper comes out, making it a potential six-day soaker. We can never complain about May rain or July humidity again.

Harvey tops the list of priorities even around LBI this week because this sounds an awful lot like what we went through five years back. And while I don’t have to explain to anyone that this doesn’t diminish Sandy, Sandy barely brought us any rain and was somewhere in the Cat 1/extratropical range, compared to Harvey’s days of deluge and Cat 4 status at landfall.

Harvey has been in the picture since Aug. 13 and became a tropical storm on Aug. 17. He died out and was kind of a non-issue until last Wednesday, when he regenerated and underwent rapid intensification from a tropical storm to Cat 4 in record time. He made a first landfall over Rockport and then a second on Saturday, still a Cat 3.

Honestly, it’s been tough to get any news from the coast of Texas about the damage from the storm surge, which sounded catastrophic. Harvey was still a tropical storm on Monday and I have a feeling no one can get in there to really assess the damage.

While there’s no doubt the coastal destruction was bad, the flooding wouldn’t stop for Houston, the center of which is only about 15 miles inland of Galveston. By now the rainfall could have reached 50 inches. Those images of folks wading, swimming or boating away from their worldly possessions and homes has been pretty gut wrenching and all too familiar.

There will long be a debate over whether Houston’s Mayor Turner should have ordered the evacuation of his city. Keep in mind, this is a metropolitan area of 2.3 million people in a flood plain. Where exactly would they have evacuated to?

At one point, Harvey was moving at a painful 2 mph and actually went back offshore, regaining some strength. Can you imagine if Sandy had walloped New Jersey and New York, then made a U-turn, jogged over the ocean and gave us another storm surge?

Look for the most effective way to donate this week. It's pretty well known that your dollar doesn’t go very far with the bigger relief organizations. It may also be worth noting that more than 20 Texas representatives voted against the Superstorm Sandy aid bill. And for as unpopular as he is, Chris Christie’s last act of decency was going to D.C. and making sure that New Jersey got the federal money we needed (even if that money has been a slow trickle to the families who need it in his second term). I wonder how those Texas lawmakers are feeling about now. Let’s hope their constituents get the help they need instead of some stupid impervious wall.

HERE WE GO: Here on the East Coast, we have our own storm upon us, thankfully not of the likes of Harvey. TD 10, a little mess of weather off the Florida/Georgia border, moved up the coast on Monday, smacking into the Outer Banks as what may be Tropical Storm Irma on Tuesday.

The super high pressure we had sitting over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast created that strong pressure gradient, and our winds went northeast on Sunday, picking up through the day on Monday and Tuesday.

Last week, while I was writing about this last week of summer, no sooner did I mention that we wouldn’t have that common “nor’easter week” in August, the kind usually associated with an early cold front or some tropically-natured system, when the forecast started calling for four days of northeast winds.

Nor’easter week is a common late summer occurrence. The wind and cooler weather bring less folks out to the beach and we see something of a harbinger of fall, compounded by summer folk peeling off to school and sports. The Island gets a little less crowded, and while the beach feels chilly in that wind, the ocean is actually ultra warm. Just to be clear, things normally rebound for a gorgeous Labor Day weekend.

These are rarely as powerful as our winter nor’easters, but they do make for tough swimming conditions. They don’t normally clean up as distinctly, but surfing overhead waves in warm water is a nice treat. The wind is supposed to back down later today (Wednesday) as the swell is peaking and Thursday could be offshore and really fun.

The models indicate a smaller, residual swell kicking back over the weekend with light, variable winds for our last summer beach days of 2017. I should also mention that after whatever big storm we have to end the summer, the beaches take on a different shape. This summer, the sandbars have been particularly good, but don’t be surprised if things transform a bit by the weekend.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly interesting in the forecast for Tumbleweed Tuesday, that most coveted of holidays for locals who just worked the better part of the last 100 days. But once Harvey gets picked up and moves across the country, it could develop into weather for the East Coast, albeit bittersweet waves. Then there’s another storm that just came off Africa, (which could be TS Irma if she strengthens first) and conditions in the equator are prime for Cape Verde storms.

OIL IS THICKER THAN WATER: Man, so much serious news this week!

Our current administration wasted no time in scrapping rules on drilling for oil off the East Coast. Back in April, our very mindful, prudent and oh so humble president reversed the Obama-era ban on new drilling via executive order, generally consistent with his stance on leaving our environment to fend for itself.

But while Orange 45 and his vocal supporters would have you believe that those in favor of the ban are a bunch of commie hippies, the Surfrider Foundation has actually collected a growing number of signatures from businesses of the coastal recreation and tourism sector on a letter stating, “The expansion of offshore drilling in the Atlantic … would pose a major threat to our natural resources, economy, and way of life. Oil and gas development would cause ecological harm through both seismic exploration and drilling operations. If a major oil spill were to occur, the environment that supports our industry would be severely damaged and the quality of life of both residents and visitors would be significantly degraded.”

This administration never stops talking about its business acumen. Of course, they would mock any progressive environmental stance against drilling, but it would certainly be counter to their rhetoric to not listen to the business community.

The Surfrider Foundation is looking for more coastal businesses to sign onto the letter, so if you know any business owners who live in tourist-supported coastal communities, maybe you want to put this letter in front of them:

We can’t do much to prevent catastrophes like Sandy or the Deepwater Horizon (although one might say we raise the chances of them by continuing to use fossil fuels and warming up the Earth’s atmosphere), but we can try to avoid them.

AND BACK TO HARVEY CEDARS: The conversation around surfing outside the flags in Harvey Cedars continued last week, this time at a taxpayers meeting. If this is the first you’re hearing about this issue, Surf City voted in July for a trial run of allowing surfing outside the flags, effectively leaving Harvey Cedars as the only town left on the Island that doesn’t practice this policy.

Cedars has a longtime designated surf beach as well as areas south of Bergen Avenue and north of 86th Street. The issue was raised and a petition went around that garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. Yet, the town is still not swayed. Liability and safety have to be addressed, as they should. But a lot of us are scratching our heads as to why this is still an issue. Island municipalities have been known to be inflexible about silly things. But the Harvey Cedars officials, current police and beach patrol don’t usually fall into that category.

The thing about this issue that folks might not be aware of is that the most vocal and persistent voices for surfing outside the flags are not random punks from out of town who come in to get waves and then zip off (I’m generalizing for effect. I would fall into that category myself if I had time to drive to Cedars in the summer) but rather longtime property owners and taxpayers who are tired of the family splitting up for the day with some family members walking up the street to the beach and the surfers having to head elsewhere.

This week, I spoke to Marilyn Upton, who has lived in Harvey Cedars for 45 years. She was just one longtime homeowner to speak out at the taxpayers meeting. As a parent and grandparent of surfers, she doesn’t see why the surfing members of her family can’t enjoy all that space in between the flags. Of course, there’s also that point of younger surfers and beginners in the same zone as the shredders when there’s a few hundred yards of open beach on the other side of the jetty.

“I just don’t understand why anyone would restrict how we use that water. I live 200 feet from the beach. Why do I need to worry about something happening to my grandkids surfing where I can’t keep an eye on them? They have to drive to the surfing beach or if they’re riding their bikes it’s in that narrow little lane on the Boulevard with their surfboards.”

Harvey Cedars’ stretch of the Boulevard is famously dangerous for pedestrians. I don’t think anyone else had thought of that. It’s probably far more dangerous than surfers and swimmers separated by a flag. Side note – Surf City Beach Patrol’s Mark Dileo told The SandPaper there have been zero problems this year on his beaches. I’ve heard a lot of good arguments for opening the beaches outside the flags for surfing, but leave it to a grandmother to give us a bullet-proof argument.

“But mostly I would like to know why surfing is acceptable outside the flags in every other town on the Island,” she continued. “What constitutes it being different in Harvey Cedars? People have asked that question again and again. There are a lot of us who are in favor of it who haven’t spoken up yet.”

Upton and a few other families plan to politely continue asking for answers. And now it looks like they’re going to have to do it through the off-season.

A contingent of surfing-outside-the-flag supporters was planning to go to the Harvey Cedars commissioners meeting this Friday, but the commissioners and mayor canceled the meeting (although the cancellation was not noted on the website as of Monday) on account of too many Labor Day issues to deal with.

This conversation is going to continue.

THE END IS NEAR: How can it be possible that it’s Labor Day? Bring on September, but hold the February.

There’s one event I want to make special note of. On Sunday, Sept. 10, local friends will gather at Sussex Avenue in Harvey Cedars to say good bye to Mallory McBrien with a traditional paddle-out. This wonderful surfer, mother and member of our community lost her brave battle with cancer last winter. This paddle-out will give some closure and celebrate her beautiful life.

More immediately, this Wednesday night, area local Jonathan Carr, who is now a meteorologist for Weather NJ, will give a talk on Jersey Shore Weather at the Lacey branch of the Ocean County Library. We have some pretty unique weather on our coast and it definitely helps to understand it. This talk starts at 6:30 and will be time well spent.

On Thursday, Farias in Ship Bottom will host Episode 3 of the local documentary series, Just Beneath the Surface, at 8 p.m. This one will be of particular interest to the Liquid Lines crew as it focuses on chasing swell and shipwreck history. On Labor Day weekend, everyone tends to do their own thing.

For those who want to see amazing professional surfing, the Belmar Pro is Sept. 8-10 in Belmar. This event has been going since 2002, gathering top surfers from around the country. It’s a great chance to see Jersey’s pros go up against top talent. There’s usually pretty firing surf as well.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, Alliance for a Living Ocean and the Lighthouse International Film Festival screens “A Plastic Ocean” at the Ship Bottom firehouse, a film about the challenges of plastic pollution in our seas.

It’s been a great season, but this is it. Time to grab summer by the throat and make the most of it: summer friends, summer food, summer waves. Pack as much as you can into this weekend. Winter is long. We all know about the rainbows and unicorns that magically show up each September, but it’s not the same as summer.






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