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A comparison of salinity effects from hurricanes Dolly (2008) and Alex (2010) in a Texas lagoon system.Hurricanes are not uncommon along the Gulf of Mexico coast, but there are few studies of the effects they have on coastal embayments. Hurricanes Dolly (2008) and Alex (2010) were both Category 2 storms affecting the Lower Laguna Madre (LLM) of Texas. Surveys were performed to assess poststorm water quality after landfall of both storms at up to 18 sample stations. The main difference between storm effects was salinity reduction because of stormwater input from the watershed. Effects from Hurricane Dolly were of short duration and small magnitude, whereas the effects from Hurricane Alex were extensive and lasted more than a month. Differences in spatial patterns in salinity were significantly more pronounced across the LLM than were temporal differences. Precipitation of 50–100 cm caused stormwater discharge to exceed 1000 m s−1 to the LLM during the Alex event and depressed salinity over more than three-fourths (ca. 500 km2) of the estuary for 2 months. Storm-related effects on water-column physiochemistry were persistently lowest near freshwater drains (Arroyo Colorado). Salinity remained less than 5 for more than 2 months during the Alex freshet. Freshwater input from Hurricane Dolly was relatively minor because the storm precipitation was largely restricted to the small Arroyo Colorado watershed. Effects from Alex were delayed but were greater because of the bulk of the precipitation falling in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo drainage basin in México. The greatest impact from that freshwater disturbance was the loss of seagrasses after prolonged exposure to hyposalinity. Hurricanes Dolly and Alex both affected the LLM but with contrasting impacts that reflected spatial and meteorological differences between the two storms.

Publication Title

Journal of Coastal Research





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