Chincoteague

Henry Popple failed to portray the Eastern Shore correctly in 1743, but did identify Chincoteague
Henry Popple failed to portray the Eastern Shore correctly in 1743, but did identify Chincoteague
Source: Library of Congress, A map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish settlements adjacent thereto (by Henry Popple, 1743)

An 1821 hurricane may have generated a storm surge, or perhaps even a tsunami after wave action generated an underwater landslide, that devastated Assateague and Chincoteague islands.

Residents reported that as the storm approached the coast from the southeast, the sea receded and exposed miles of ocean bottom. Soon afterward, a deep roar could be heard moments before a "monstrous wall of inky waters rushed with the speed of lightning toward the island." The wall of water struck Assateague first, decimating trees and anything else in its path, and then struck Chincoteague, carrying away men and ponies "like insects."

One man with his grandson clinging to his neck was reportedly swept far up on to the mainland six miles to the west. Another was found the next morning hanging in a pine tree by his waistband, twenty feet from the ground.1

a Category 3 hurricane would flood most of Chincoteague Island under three feet of water
a Category 3 hurricane would flood most of Chincoteague Island under three feet of water
Source: First Street Foundation, FloodIQ

Today, Chincoteague economically benefits from its proximity to Wallops Island. Antares launches of resupply missions to the International Space Station bring tourists in the off-season. The general manager for Ropewalk Restaurant in Chincoteague reported in 2018:2

I order extra food. I add more servers and more bartenders. I plan ahead... There's another 500 people on the island, so I order double our normal sales to ensure we have enough... It's always good for business when there's a rocket in town.

flooding risk at Chincoteague
flooding risk at Chincoteague
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) Viewer

Chincoteague also benefits from its proximity to Assateague Island. For the last 2,000 years, longshore currents have carried sand south and extended the tip of Assateague Island. Today, it:3

...shelters two other islands, Chincoteague and Wallops, in a rare example of overlapping (duplexed) barrier islands. Major storms such as hurricanes and nor’easters sporadically and dramatically move sand from the ocean-facing side of Assateague to its land-facing side, into inlets and bays, and onto the shores of Chincoteague and Wallops. This means all three islands are slowly marching toward a merger with the mainland.

Accomack County

Barrier Islands

The Challenge of Developing vs. Preserving Assateague Island

Coastal Zone Management in Virginia

Eastern Shore

Horses of Assateague Island

Space: The Final Frontier Starts at Wallops Island

Virginia and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)

Virginia and Submerged Lands

southern end of Assateague Island in 1985
southern end of Assateague Island on June 20, 1985
Source: NASA Earth Observatory, Assateague on the Move

southern end of Assateague Island on June 2, 2019
southern end of Assateague Island on June 2, 2019
Source: NASA Earth Observatory, Assateague on the Move

building the new bridge to Chincoteague in 2009
building the new bridge to Chincoteague in 2009
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, Chincoteague Bridge

the new drawbridge to Chincoteague, replacing the 1939 swing bridge, opened in 2010
the new drawbridge to Chincoteague, replacing the 1939 swing bridge, opened in 2010
Source: US Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District

Links


Toms Cove, morphing over time
Source: Google Earth Engine

References

1. "Eastern Shore Hazard Mitigation Plan 2016," Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, 2016, p.1-1, http://www.a-npdc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/FullHMP2016.pdf; Howard Pyle, "Chincoteague," Scribners Monthly, Volume 13 Issue 6 (April 1877), p.743, http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=scmo;idno=scmo0013-6 (last checked September 28, 2017)
2. "Rocket launches at Wallops Flight Facility thrill businesses as they light up the sky," Salisbury Daily Times, November 14, 2018, https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/virginia/2018/11/14/nasa-wallops-flight-facility-chincoteague-business/1944232002/ (last checked October 9, 2019)
3. "Assateague on the Move," NASA Earth Observatory, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145695/assateague-on-the-move (last checked October 9, 2019)

Chincoteague Island, 2001
Chincoteague Island, 2001
Source: NASA Earth Observatory, Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, Virginia

by 2080, sea level rise could make Chincoteague Island uninhabitable
by 2080, sea level rise could make Chincoteague Island uninhabitable
Source: Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency , Sea Level Rise Projection


Parks, Forests and Tourism
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