Coastal Processes and Influence on Damage to Urban Structures during Hurricane Irma (St-Martin & St-Barthélemy, French West Indies)

Rey, Tony ; Leone, Frédéric ; Candela, Thomas ; Bel Madani, Ali ; Palany, Philippe ; Krien, Yann ; Cécé, Raphael ; Gherardi, Monique ; Péroche, Matthieu ; Zahibo, Narcisse

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<p align=justify>This study aims to better understand coastal processes associated with extreme cyclonic events through the study of the coastal changes, flooding and damage that resulted from the passage of a category 5 hurricane (Irma) on 6 September 2017 over the islands of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy in the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Irma was contextualized from tropical cyclone track data and local weather observations collected by Météo-France, as well as high-resolution numerical modelling. Field work involved the study of accretion coasts through qualitative observations, topo-morphological and sedimentary surveys, as well as image acquisition with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) surveys during two trips that were made 2 and 8 months after the catastrophe. Wave propagation and flood numerical models are presented and compared to field data. Our field analysis also reports on the devastating impacts of storm surges and waves, which reached 4 and 10 meters height, respectively, especially along east-facing shores. The approaches reveal a variety of morpho-sedimentary responses over both natural and highly urbanized coasts. The analysis shows the effects of coastal structures and streets on flow channeling, on the amplification of some erosion types, and on water level increase. Positive spatial correlation is found between damage intensity and marine flood depth. The signatures of ocean-induced damage are clear and tend to validate the relevance of the intensity scale used in this study.</p>
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