The outbreak of the brown tide caused by Aureococcus in Great South Bay during late June and early July came as a surprise to citizens and scientists alike as it ended nearly eight months of what some had deemed “gin-clear” water facilitated in part by the new ocean inlet created by Hurricane Sandy. An analysis of environmental data (see accompanying graphic; salinity and chlorophyll data courtesy of Dr. C. Flagg) during June provides some clear signs as to the cause of this brown tide.
We at the Save the Great South Bay know that residents along the South Shore of Long Island are vulnerable and nervous every time a named storm comes our way. That’s why it is important to be ready and aware of what to expect. Tropical Storm Andrea will be more of a wind driven tropical rain event than a flooding event according to the National Weather Service. This tropical low pressure system will pass to our south and east and track northeast. With it, it will bring torrential rains, thunderstorms, wind and heavy surf. The winds around a low pressure system rotate inward toward the central point of low pressure counterclockwise. That is why with a storm track like Andrea’s, winds will go from South, to SE, to East, then Northeast as it departs our region North eastward. The worst of the winds will be from Friday night to Saturday morning. Winds will be mostly out of the east during this time and turn toward the west into Saturday. Residents along the South Shore prone to coastal flooding can expect the worst of the storm Friday night into Saturday morning for the New Moon astronomical tide.
You really don't need a crystal ball for this prediction: Tropical Storm Andrea will dump up to three inches of rain on Long Island Friday into Saturday. That rain will in turn wash septic water into our rivers, streams, ponds, and bays, and with that will force the closure of a number of Long Island beaches over this coming weekend. These days, a good downpour brings many millions of gallons of contaminated, septic water from the land to the water. With over 100,000 septic tanks in Suffolk County, when it rains our waters suffer. The bacteria counts explode and our beaches become hazards. The water literally becomes dangerous to be in. So as night follows day, a heavy rain will close the beaches. The same thing happened on Memorial Day Weekend. Heavy rains, it was reported, closed the following beaches:
Further research via old maps showed that in the 1790's it was referred to as "The New Inlet at South Haven," gaining the name The Old Inlet only after it was closed by two ship wrecks in the 1820s. So what was new is now new again. The bay is renewing itself with the inlet's reopening. Even so, The Army Corps of Engineers continues to press for closure, as to presumably the politicians who continue to ignore science in favor of 'doing something.' It is our hope that this new New Inlet will remain with us, hopefully so long as nature deems it, and will continue to revitalize the Eastern Bay, repairing at least some of the damage we've caused from decades of mismanagement and neglect. We hope that it can buy us enough time to address the many water quality issues on the Long Island mainland that led to the bay's deterioration -- seepage from 100,000+ septic tanks, storm runoff from 2000+ outfall pipes that wash into our streams and into our bays 115 different pesticides, lawn fertilizer, the destruction of marshes and eelgrass beds.
This film was created by Justin for his Environmental Media class at Stony Brook University. Enjoy!
With The New Inlet, Mother Nature's true gift was to give us but a glimpse of what the Great South Bay was and could be again. It's a challenge to us to take action. Next summer, will The New Inlet even be there, whether because of nature or man? Then what? The bay starts to die again. Here's what Mother Nature alone can't fix, and what we must fix if we want this bay all the way back, New Inlet or no New Inlet:
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