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ABSTRACT: Impact of Hurricane Hugo on Coastal Resources of Puerto Rico

R. W. Rodriguez, R. M. T. Webb

Hurricane Hugo struck Puerto Rico on September 18, 1989, with winds greater than 250 km/hr. Natural coastal zone resources as diverse as offshore sand deposits, recreational beaches, and coral reefs were severely degraded by the storm.

Offshore sand deposits are of major importance as a natural resource because of the potential for low-cost development and because onshore sources suitable for use in the construction industry and in beach replenishment projects have been depleted. The largest offshore sand deposit, the Escollo de Arenas, was severely degraded by Hugo. Aerial reconnaissance of the 90,000,000-m3 deposit following the storm revealed that it was leveled and dispersed over the adjacent sea floor, which contains unacceptable amounts of fine material.

Hugo's impact on and subsequent recovery of the recreational beaches is critical to the island's tourism industry. Although the position of the shoreline remained fairly constant, the berms of the beaches along the eastern and northern coasts of the island were eroded by 3-5-m waves that were augmented by the 0.6-m rising tide and a 0.6-m storm surge. Overwash fans, containing more than 500,000 m3 of sand, were deposited behind the dune line in Pinones, east of San Juan. At other sites, material lost from the berm was deposited in the nearshore zone.

Preliminary reconnaissance surveys show that stands of Acropora Palmata and Porites on the coral reefs in Vieques Passage were degraded considerably by Hugo. Many colonies located in deeper, relatively quiet water were sediment choked and suffered high rates of mortality.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91003©1990 AAPG Annual Convention, San Francisco, California, June 3-6, 1990