PORT REPUBLIC, N.J. (CBS) – Is the New Jersey coastline overdue for a direct impact from a hurricane?

The last time it happened was 1903, and the closest the shore has come to a hurricane landfall since, was a near-miss from Gloria in 1985.

But Dr. Stewart Farrell (top photo), director of the Coastal Research Center at Richard Stockton College, says the shore remains susceptible to damage, from a variety of storms.

“The hurricane risk is low — a direct hit.  The northeaster risk is relatively high,” he says, “depending on the seasonality and frequency of the storms.”

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Farrell says the Jersey shoreline suffers less from individual storms than from erosion caused by the season-long effects of tides and currents.

Still, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a busier-than-normal hurricane season this year.

Farrell looks at the tornadoes in the south and flooding in the midwest as indicators that weather events seem to be more extreme these days.

“This spring has been classic in terms of intense, severe storms. Major events. The frequency of major events. Yes, all on the increase, I’m afraid.”

At that places more importance on the work of Farrell’s colleague, Daniel Barone.   Barone (below) takes information from aerial flyovers and creates color-coded 3D maps showing the condition of beaches and dunes — the shore’s natural barriers.

“We extract that data for discrete areas to get average dune elevations for, say, a town or in front of a home,” he explains.  “And we get average beach widths. And we can also do pre- and post-storm comparisons.”

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On a 1 to 10 scale, Farrell says, the Jersey shoreline varies in storm readiness, from a five for areas of Long Beach Island where houses are built too close to the ocean, to almost a ten at the southern end of Brigantine, with its 800 feet of dunes.

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio 1060

Audio Podcasts:

Part 1: How Vulnerable Is The NJ Shore? Mike DeNardo reports:

Click here to download Part 1

Part 2: Recalling Previous Devastation Mike DeNardo reports:

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Part 3: New Building Codes and Standards John McDevitt reports:

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Part 4: Evacuate! John McDevitt reports:

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