Barrier Islands Endure Busy Storm Season

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

SHIP ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Gulf Coast's barrier islands have taken a beating during this busy hurricane season. But the extent of storm damage isn't as bad as you might imagine.

The barrier islands have endured centuries of hurricanes. Waves and wind are forever shaping this barrier island. Hurricanes hasten that dynamic process.

"It's ever changing. Storms make the island change in appearance. They roll over and sand is redeposited. So, it's a changing place," said park ranger Gail Bishop. "With Gustav, we had a lot of erosion on the south side. With Ike, a lot of sand was pushed in, so we just kind of waited around and got our sand in."

Volunteer Jack Madison says historic Fort Massachusetts had to be cleared of muck and debris after Gustav and Ike. Of bigger concern is the encroaching current on the north side, threatening to undermine the fortress.

"North shore, I can see a little bit of that ever moving current we have from the east to the west. You can see it at the fort itself when the water is touching the fort again. We will have to do some dredging to fill that back in," said Madison.

Our excursion included a boat ride to East Ship Island. A recent article in the New York Times erroneously reported East Ship had disappeared because of the recent storms.

"Well, East Ship of course has a lot of erosion with Katrina. And it does look pretty desolate. But it's still there. When we went by we saw a lot of dead trees but in those trees were a lot of osprey nests," said Bishop.

Though the fort still needs some fixing from Katrina damage and the ranger and restroom facilities must still be rebuilt, West Ship Island is in remarkably good shape overall and remains a favorite of visitors.

"They come out and they are so relaxed. It is a place of beauty. A place of history. And just to get out from the hustle and bustle and get out and walk the beaches, you are going to be a changed and happy person."

Ship Island Excursions operates a public ferry boat to and from the island. The boat service at the Gulfport Harbor will continue through the month of October.