There's been a lot of necessary coverage surrounding Hurricane Sandy's devastation of areas like the Rockaways, Staten Island, Red Hook and Breezy Point, but the fate of Fire Island, which was hit hard by the storm but luckily spared from total devastation, hasn't gotten too much press thus far. So the Times took a trip to the central barrier island to see how it was holding up, and they discovered that man-made cleanup aside, the area's natural geology underwent a sizable shift post-Sandy—a nearly three-decade shift, in fact.

Dunes have disappeared, inlets have popped up, beaches and coastlines have reformed, and sand has swept further inland, changing Fire Island's landscape for the long run. In fact, scientists say Fire Island underwent about 30 years worth of change post-Sandy. "This was an amazingly powerful storm that reshaped the island dramatically and moved it," Chris Soller, Fire Island National Seashore's superintendent, said.

Researchers are taking advantage of Fire Island's geological shift, using the changes to study how barrier islands like this one handle major storms and other natural events. While Fire Island might be best known as a vacation spot, it's actually one of Long Island's greatest protectors, and with many of its guardian dunes destroyed, there's concern it won't be able to do its job anymore.