Urban Fold

Barrier Islands Like Galveston Are Risky Business for Builders

Having been previously destroyed by a hurricane, Galveston has always been vulnerable, despite its sea wall. Hurricane Ike is a reminder of why building on barrier islands is so risky.

"Galveston is a barrier island, a narrow landmass made mostly of sand that extends along a coastline parallel to the land. These islands, common along the Gulf Coast and East Coast of the United States, are some of the most fragile and changing landforms on Earth.

Barrier islands like Galveston are particularly vulnerable to storm damage because they are made of sand, as opposed to the hard bedrock that underlies larger islands and the mainland. They also tend to have very low elevations, making it easy for water to wash over and submerge the island. For many people living on barrier islands, there is no amount of structural support that can ward off the worst.

The eastern part of Galveston Island (also the more densely inhabited) has a strong 18-foot sea wall in place to deflect some of the incoming waves, so it should be more protected than the western half, depending on the extent to which the storm surge overtops the wall.

Many have questioned the wisdom of choosing to build on and develop barrier islands, given their risks."

Full Story: Ike Underscores Foolishness of Building on Barrier Islands



Mike Lydon's picture


Beachtown, a DPZ project in Galveston was right in the middle of the storm. However, because it was built with high quality, sustainable materials--to hurricane fortified standards-- it escaped relatively unscathed. Part of the problem is how cheaply we build our settlements these days, as well as where we site them. If you stay behind the dunes and let them buffer, it will help tremendously towards surviving a storm. Many homes on barrier islands are directly on the beach! Seaside has survived many a hurricane with relatively little damage because of its construction methods and siting. Something to think about...

Check out the Beachtown website here: http://www.beachtowngalveston.com/home.htm

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