Storm Creates New Inlet In South Beach

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Erosion

A couple stand at the edge of the beach to look across the new inlet at what is now South Beach Island. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM -- Saturday's northeast winds and high tides scoured out a previous washover in South Beach about a quarter mile from Chatham Lighthouse, creating an inlet through which several vessels traveled Sunday.

Water was flowing at low tide through the inlet, located approximately across from Outermost Harbor.  It empties into the waterways previously known as the Southway, which was the principle Chatham Harbor outlet to the Atlantic prior to the 1987 breakthrough opposite the lighthouse. It essentially creates an island out of South Beach.

Aerial photos also appeared to show extensive erosion of the barrier beach farther south toward Monomoy.

Officials are concerned that the new inlet could cause extensive shoaling in the main inlet, which is used by commercial fishermen and other boaters to get from Chatham Harbor to the ocean.  Already, the notorious Chatham Bar at the mouth of the inlet is more treacherous than it's been in years.

Experts say the new inlet is part of the breakup of the barrier beach that's been happening since the 1987 break.  It throws into question, however, which inlet -- there is one north of the fish pier as well as the original break and the brand new inlet -- will become dominant.

Shellfisherman Christoper LeClaire said in a Facebook post that he navigated through the new inlet "very easily" at low tide Sunday morning. "Looks like it is here to stay, with no shoaling, hopefully. Should be a great season and years ahead for boaters alike," he wrote.  Randy Saul, who runs the Chatham's Three Breaks Facebook page, wrote that he also took his boat through the inlet Sunday at 7 a.m.

Read more about this story in Thursday's paper.