"On the Alabama Coast, the Unluckiest Island in America"

"Dauphin Island has been battered by more than a dozen hurricanes and tropical storms in recent decades. But that hasn’t stopped homeowners on the beach resort from repeatedly getting federal aid and insurance payouts to keep rebuilding in the same vulnerable locations."

"On the night of September 12, 1979, a bruising Category 3 hurricane named Frederic roared up the Gulf of Mexico and across Alabama’s Dauphin Island before surging into Mobile Bay. The 120-mile-per-hour winds and 12-foot storm surge toppled the only bridge to the island and destroyed 140 houses. For several years, the only way for workers to commute to nearby Mobile was by ferry.

Travel guides from the era described Dauphin Island as one of the Gulf’s hidden gems, a quaint, unpretentious oasis of pastel bungalows, white sugar-sand beaches, and spectacular sunsets. They didn’t mention hurricanes or the fact that the 14-mile island was slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

Dauphin is shaped like a drumstick – widest on its east end, where there is a lush maritime forest, a historic Civil War–era fort, and a nationally celebrated bird sanctuary; and pinched on its west end, where it has lost over 100 feet of shoreline to erosion and storms in the last few decades, and vacation houses now perch like birdhouses above the water. It is one of a score of low-lying islands, some no more than sand spits, which dangle like a necklace along the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Louisiana. Once a formidable barrier between the Gulf and the mainland, the islands are now tattered and uneven, some dense with sedge and trees, others ripped asunder by storms and all but vanished beneath the water. "

Gilbert M. Gaul reports for Yale Environment 360 September 5, 2019.

Source: YaleE360, 09/05/2019