Chesapeake Beach is midway up the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. People think that hurricanes are the Bay’s worst nightmare, but historically nor’easters have been worse. That’s because they’re more frequent and often pound the coast for days instead of the hours of wind and rain usually associated with a hurricane.

Margaret and Michael Duffy enjoyed a charter sail on the York River on a beautiful day and showed unusual interest in the cliffs below Yorktown. That’s where Lord Early Cornwallis hid his ships from raining artillery in 1781. Over the past 200 years the currents from the York have conspired with innumerable nor’easters to peel off the cliffs. People who built houses there have rounded off the cliffs and installed expensive rip rap on the shoreline to mitigate the damage.

Margaret said, “We have an excellent view of the Bay because we live on B Street. A Street is no longer because it was taken by the Bay.”

What works for them and others along the coast is an insidious plant otherwise despised by home gardeners. “Kudzu has done a good job against the erosion,” Michael said. “It grabs the soil and won’t let go. Our beach is shallow and flat, the but nor’easters work their way into the land mass and into the cliffs. On a good day in the sun, kudzu can grow fast by two feet. But it works its way uphill and beyond. I’ve seen it move from one side of our house underneath the foundation and out the other side.”

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