Shorefront house lost to Bogue Inlet's changing position

Figure 2. When Bogue Inlet moved, this house was undercut by waves. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

Figure 2 shows a beachfront house being undercut by waves. Unfortunately, this kind of damage happens frequently as sea level rises and erosion eats into the shoreline.

Erosion into housing areas usually occurs when something happens to increase the local rate of sea level rise. That is true in this case. This house was built in an area that had once been an inlet between two barrier islands. The inlet migrated away from this area for many years and left behind a wide beach backed by a modest dune. At the time of construction, this area looked like other beachfront properties, and seemed to pose no abnormally high risk of flooding. The history of the inlet location and its proximity to this lot should have been a warning. The massive rearrangement of sand caused by the winds, waves, and storm surge of Hurricanes Bonnie and Fran resulted in a dramatic reversal of the inlet’s migration, and it came back to the spot it had occupied years earlier.

Unfortunately, that spot was now occupied by this house. Sand dredged to deepen and stabilize the newly positioned inlet was pumped under and around the house in an attempt to replace lost sand. But the steep eroded face of the new fill shows that this was not a lasting solution. At the time of this writing, the restoration efforts have ceased and the house is condemned. How long it will last is not clear.