Waves crash ashore Clearwater Beach Sunday afternoon. County officials are inspecting local beaches to check for erosion damage.
Photo by NANCY AYERS
A surfer in Belleair Beach watches waves roll in from the south on Sunday afternoon as Tropical Storm Debby churns in the gulf. Belleair Beach is next on the nourishment schedule.
CLEARWATER – Work on the Sand Key Beach nourishment project is on hold for now.
Andy Squires, Pinellas County’s coastal manager, said work stopped Friday, June 22, due to Tropical Storm Debby. As of Monday afternoon, Squires had no estimate as to when work might begin again.
“We won’t know until this system moves out of the area,” he said.
Most of Monday was spent surveying the beaches to see what damage Tropical Storm Debby might have done to county beaches over the weekend. Heavy rains, high winds, above-normal tides and high surf buffeted the county all day Sunday, which does no good for area beaches.
“We lost a lot of sand,” Squires said.
A preliminary report of some of the most-damaged areas include the last mile of Sunset Beach, near John’s Pass, and the south end of the beach at Pass-a-Grille, where the water has cut into the existing sand dune.
Squires said both areas were considered “erosion hot spots, “because the beaches are narrower than other locations.
A report from Dr. Ping Wang with the University of South Florida’s Geology Department listed some preliminary observations. Wang’s report said the most severe erosion had taken place at the following locations.
- On Long Key (St. Pete Beach) at Pass-a-Grille Beach south of the snack bar
- Long Key at Upham Beach, erosion to the seawall on northern extreme fronting condominium buildings. Wang reports that Upham public beach received considerable erosion but a wide beach remains in the area.
- Sunset Beach on Treasure Island from Caddy’s on 90th Avenue southward, erosion has cut an additional 10 to 15 feet into the existing sand dune at some locations.
- Sunshine Beach on Treasure Island, erosion in the area of 126th and 125th avenues.
As of early Monday afternoon, the inspection was not complete at Sand Key Beach and Squires did not know the condition of the recent addition of 85 feet of new sand from the nourishment project. Squires said citizen reports had indicated that sand had been lost.
Squires said although it was unfortunate that sand was lost so soon after it was replenished, it was possible that the new sand might have protected areas that might have been affected if the beach had been narrower. Storm protection is one of the primary reasons for beach nourishment projects. Wider the beaches create a bigger buffer between the land and rising seas and wave action that accompany hurricanes and tropical storms.
Squires said after the initial inspection was complete, staff would begin actual measurements to make a determination of how much beach had been lost.
But, everything will have to wait until Tropical Storm Debby is done, Squires said.
The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center estimates that Debby may make landfall along the west coast Wednesday or Thursday.