Ten years after Sandy, Atlantic City still suffering floods

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Atlantic City, where flooding is still a near-daily part of life a decade post-Sandy.

A decade after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the US east coast, the seaside town Atlantic City has fortified its famous boardwalk that narrowly divides casinos and the ocean.

But in certain neighborhoods, flooded streets have become routine.

North of the city dubbed the Vegas of the East Coast, a new stretch of boardwalk is protected from crashing waves by a rock barrier and a seawall, a $60 million project completed in 2018.

Further inland stands a wasteland of sorts, where a few buildings still tower, survivors of the deadly storm’s devastation.

Jim Rutala, a private planning consultant for the city, said the tens of millions in investment in the shoreline have “provided tremendous protection” and could accommodate new construction.

Founded in the 19th century as a spa resort, Atlantic City feted its golden age during the Prohibition era in the 1920s, a haven for revelers and the high-rolling mob before it later became a tourist destination thanks to its nightclubs and casinos.

‘Economic generator’

The city immortalized in song by Bruce Springsteen has always benefited from its spot on the sea, but the threat of rising waters has made the area increasingly vulnerable.

On October 29, 2012, Sandy—which left more than 100 people in the United States dead—caused serious damage to nine percent of homes in Atlantic City, according to the state of New Jersey.

A plaque marking the height of the water when Sandy struck Atlantic City in 2012, seen at the Vagabond Kitchen and Tap House.

The city of some 40,000 people is “a tremendous economic generator,” said Rutala, where 35 percent of residents live in poverty.

Further south, where hotels, casinos and restaurants populate the seaside, some of the shoreline was able to weather Sandy thanks to beaches and artificial dunes that the Army Corps of Engineers had constructed, with millions of cubic meters of sand washed offshore.

Without them “water would be lapping up against the boardwalk,” said Kimberly McKenna, the associate director of the Stockton University Coastal Research Center.

But “at some point, we’re either gonna run out of sand, or it’ll be too expensive to keep up,” said the geologist.

High-tide flooding

Heading a little deeper toward the back of the bay shows just how quickly the water that’s made Atlantic City a tourist hotspot can become a handicap.

An aerial view of the neighborhood Chelsea Heights in Atlantic City.

“Every time it rains, any rain other than a light rain will cause a flood on this street,” said lifelong resident Thomas Gitto.

The 62-year-old retiree worked for decades in the casinos, and has always lived on the same street of modest homes.

“We even have a joke—it says that if it just gets cloudy, it will flood. And it’s true. Because anytime we have like a full moon, or some kind of storm coming, the water comes up through the sewer, and the street will flood all the way up to the porch and sometimes it even comes inside the house,” Gitto told AFP.

The high-tide floods are likely to become increasingly common as sea levels rise due to .

Atlantic City should expect to experience such inundations between 17 and 75 days per year by 2030, compared to less than once a year in 1950, according to a 2019 study by Rutgers University.

Freddie Restrepo in front of his Atlantic City home that was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy a decade ago.

In the Chelsea Heights neighborhood, Freddie Restrepo and his sister Paula, immigrants from Colombia, lost both of their side-by-side homes to Sandy.

After 10 years and a number of mishaps, they have only been able to rebuild the walls and foundations that are now raised, similar to a number of properties in the area.

Today, according to Restrepo, the street frequently floods.

Streets frequently flood in Atlantic City’s Chelsea Heights neighborhood, shown here.

‘A lot worse’

Nearby at his tavern Vagabond Kitchen and Tap House, co-owner Elvis Cadavid says “things have just gotten a lot worse.”

“We’re well aware of when the flooding is going to happen,” he said. “So we deal with it, we postpone openings, we sometimes close early. If it’s really bad, we might close for the day, we might lose a day.”

Rutala said the , cognizant of its weak spots, started renovating its drainage system and has constructed several bulkheads bordering the interior bay.

Streets frequently flood in Atlantic City’s Chelsea Heights neighborhood, shown here.


Since Sandy, more than 300 homeowners in Atlantic City—and more than 7,000 in New Jersey—have received aid on average of more than $120,000 to rebuild, according to state figures.

But according to Rutala, at least 200 homes are still classified as regular flood victims.

© 2022 AFP

Ten years after Sandy, Atlantic City still suffering floods (2022, October 29)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Tunisia 'sandy' farms resist drought, development thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Tunisia ‘sandy’ farms resist drought, development

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Tunisian farmers in the small fishing town of Ghar El Melh are fighting to preserve a unique way of growing crops on sandy plots using a traditional, delicate irrigation system

Farmers near a seaside lagoon in northern Tunisia are fighting to preserve a unique, traditional irrigation system that has sparked renewed interest as North Africa’s water shortages intensify.

Retired schoolteacher Ali Garci wanders among tiny sandy plots, inspecting his potatoes, lettuces and onions.

“It’s not land that we cultivate for the profit it brings, but for the art and the pleasure,” says the 61-year-old, who works around a hectare (2.5 acres) inherited from his family.

Local farmers have used the “ramli” technique since the 17th century, when Muslims and Jews settled in North Africa after fleeing the Catholic reconquest of Andalusia.

Some found safety in Ghar El Melh, a small fishing town in Tunisia’s north.

But they had to battle a lack of cultivated land and water.

They learned to take advantage of the light, sandy soil, and the fact that underground freshwater, which is lighter than seawater, “floats” above the saltier groundwater below.

When rainwater from the hills reaches the sandy area around Ghar El Melh’s lagoons, instead of mixing immediately with the brine below, it forms a thin layer of fresh groundwater.

Twice a day, the tides of the nearby Mediterranean raise the level of both, bringing precious freshwater in contact with the vegetables in the ramli plots.

“It’s as if the sea is suckling its young,” said Abdelkarim Gabarou, who has worked the traditional plots for more than 40 years.

Tunisian farmers have learned to take advantage of the light, sandy soil and the fact that underground freshwater floats above the saltier, heavier groundwater below providing crucial water for crops

‘Every drop of water’

The ramli farms—ramli is Arabic for “sandy”—cover around 200 hectares (500 acres) and support around 300 people.

They were listed last year in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) list of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.

The FAO said the ramli system was “unique not only in Tunisia but in the whole world”.

Ramli produce is said to have a particular taste, and is in high demand both locally and in Tunis.

But farmers voice regret that their products lack formal certification, despite the FAO designation.

They must also contend with growing threats to their unique farming system, both from and development.

As rainfall becomes less regular and sea levels rise, the ramli farmers’ delicate dance with nature is becoming harder.

“We’re totally dependent on rainwater,” Garci said. “We try to preserve it in the most natural way possible.”

Known as ‘ramli’ farms, this delicate balance with nature is under threat as rainfall becomes less regular due to climate change

For the system to work, the roots of the vegetables must reach freshwater but also, crucially, not the saltwater below.

That requires precisely the right amount of sand above: a layer exactly 40 centimetres (15-and-a-half inches) thick.

Raoudha Gafrej, an expert on and climate change, says it would be near-impossible to reproduce the ramli system elsewhere.

“This ingenious system doesn’t cover a huge area… but we have to preserve it, because the country needs every drop of water it can get,” she said.

Valuable real estate

Unlike in other parts of Tunisia, these farms thrive all year round without artificial irrigation, allowing the farmers to produce up to 20 tonnes (22 tons) of crops per year.

Reeds protect the plots, just four metres wide, from wind and erosion, but shielding them from human activity is another matter.

This beautiful coastline, where a long strip of white sand separates the lagoon from the sea, is popular with holidaymakers.

Retired Tunisian school teacher Ali Garci farms a plot of land inherited from his family and says this traditional form of agriculture recognised by the UN as a globally important heritage is ‘totally dependant on rainwater’

“Lots of farmers are thinking of selling their land for good prices, to people who want to build houses overlooking the sea and the hills,” said Garci.

Meanwhile, he says, very few young Tunisians want to become farmers.

But in a country where 80 percent of water goes to irrigation, any effort to make more efficient use of water is valuable.

On the Tunisian island of Djerba, where summer water outages are common, an NGO recently renovated 15 ancient reservoirs to collect rainwater for irrigation in the drier months.

Gafrej said such efforts were vital.

“We need to help this culture of preservation to take root,” she said.

© 2021 AFP

Tunisia ‘sandy’ farms resist drought, development (2021, April 15)
retrieved 15 April 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-tunisia-sandy-farms-resist-drought.html

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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