Tuesday, August 14, 2018
News Roundup

A 40-ton barge washed up on St. Pete Beach after early morning storms Monday

The Taylor family from New Castle, England, rushed to the water after checking in at the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach on Monday afternoon.

A sign on the front desk had warned them about the rusty orange cargo carrier that was sitting on the beach right in front of the hotel. Tony Taylor, his wife and their son saw it immediately.

How could they have possibly missed it? It’s 200 feet long, 40 feet wide and 8 feet tall.

"It’s weird," 11-year-old Drew Taylor said, wrinkling his nose and pointing at the massive barge.

"It’s unfortunate," said 49-year-old Tony Taylor, looking down at his son. "But not too much. We can just walk a little further and enjoy the beach there."

The steel-plate carrier that weighs about 40 tons washed ashore sometime early Monday after a storm churned up waves of five to seven feet. The force of the waves broke ropes holding two barges together offshore. One of them floated toward the beach, grounding in the shallow surf and creating opportunities for a different kind of postcard.

Seven barges float off St. Pete Beach currently, and they’re mainly full of rocks. They belong to Luhr Bros Inc., an Illinois-based company that the state of Florida contracted to stop beach erosion, said Tony Miller, a barge hand and security guard.

The Luhr Bros. project employs a crew of nine men, including crane operators, boat pilots and engineers. The workers have been arriving at the beach at about 5:30 a.m. every day since May to get the machinery running.

When the sun rises at about 6:30 a.m., they begin lifting rocks of different sizes and shapes, and positioning them to create a barrier. Their goal is to trap sand and keep it from washing away.

But before they can get the rocks in place, they remove bags full of fiberglass, which is what had previously been there to prevent erosion. That’s why some of the barges are full of rocks and foundation mass, while others are full of fiberglass and debris. The one that got away had a partial load of about 25 tons.

The crew started the project last year, working from March to December. They came back in May and plan to finish the project in mid August, Miller said.

When he noticed one of the barges had run aground Monday, Miller said he thought to himself: "Well, we got a problem."

The men quickly tied a rope from the barge to a bulldozer on the beach, anchoring it. They plan to wait until the water calms down and then tow it back into the water using two motor boats. Miller said it will most likely be sometime Tuesday morning.

"I got a damn good crew," Miller said. "We’ll get it out of everyone’s hair real soon."

All day Monday, Miller stood under the sun in his denim overalls, asking beachgoers to step away from the barge and to walk as far away from the rope as possible.

In the morning, two women who appeared to be in their 20s tried to play with the barge. Miller said he heard one of them challenge the other to touch it.

"I dare you," the woman said.

The other took up the offer, trotting to the carrier.

"Do you hate life that much?" Miller told her. "If that line breaks, it can snap your head out."

Miller said he "chewed that girl’s butt for doing that."

The 50-year-old, who has been working in the business for 23 years, said barges don’t get ripped away too often.

But when these accidents do happen, he said they’re an inconvenience. The mishap Monday prompted a few St. Pete police and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars to stop by the beach.

Miller said he also got a call from the U.S. Coast Guard checking on what the company’s preventive measures had been. Miller told them his crew used six lines to secure the barges, running each one about six times around hitches.

Tourists also stopped to chat with Miller, wondering what happened.

Troy Motes of Las Vegas said he’s been vacationing in St. Pete Beach for about 25 years and had never seen a barge onshore.

"It’s kind of cool to see it up close," the 54-year-old said. "It made our vacation more fun."

Comments
Archer trade gets even better as Rays add promising young pitcher

Archer trade gets even better as Rays add promising young pitcher

NEW YORK — The return the Rays got from the Pirates for Chris Archer already looked good.Right-hander Tyler Glasnow has been increasingly impressive in three starts using his high-octane fastball and cruel breaking balls, and outfielder Austin ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Solid not good enough in loss to Yankees

Rays journal: Solid not good enough in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK — The Rays got another solid outing from LHP Jalen Beeks on Tuesday, though the few mistakes he did make were costly. Add their inability to muster much of anything offensively against J.A. Happ and two relievers, and the result was ye...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs could use another Tony Dungy to spark culture change

Bucs could use another Tony Dungy to spark culture change

TAMPA —  It seems a little odd, but Tony Dungy is just now being installed in the Bucs' Ring of Honor, two years after his bust was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Leave it to his former team.As if it matters to this man. Dungy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater voters: a strong mayor question is official on the Nov. 6 ballot

Clearwater voters: a strong mayor question is official on the Nov. 6 ballot

CLEARWATER —It’s official. Voters will decide this fall whether Clearwater should change its government run by a professional city manager into a strong mayor system like Tampa and St. Petersburg.The City Council gave a final 3-2 vote on Tuesday to p...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Seminole man faces DUI manslaughter charges in deaths of father, son

Seminole man faces DUI manslaughter charges in deaths of father, son

SEMINOLE — A 60-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening on two counts of DUI manslaughter in the July 28 chain-reaction crash that fatally injured a father and his son, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies arrested James Wolf ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hillsborough schools will begin disclosing more data about lead in drinking water

Hillsborough schools will begin disclosing more data about lead in drinking water

TAMPA ­­— The Hillsborough County School District will begin publicly disclosing all locations where it finds lead in schools’ water, not just the samples that tested highest, an official said Tuesday.Detailed results from the testing lab could begin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Shooter in Clearwater stand your ground case appears before judge

Shooter in Clearwater stand your ground case appears before judge

LARGO — Clad in orange jail scrubs, Michael Drejka made his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon via video monitor, one day after he was arrested on a manslaughter charge in the shooting of Markeis McGlockton.The proceeding was brief and perfunct...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Deputies: Pinellas County jail inmate died during surgery

Deputies: Pinellas County jail inmate died during surgery

ST. PETERSBURG — A jail inmate died Monday while undergoing surgery, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.Cesar Gonzales-Espana, 43, had suffered a medical episode at the Pinellas County jail on Saturday, the agency said, and was taken t...
Updated: 6 hours ago
State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

For nearly 40 years, while wearing an eclectic mix of fashion, a mechanical gorilla has stood outside State Vacuum of Tampa, waving hello to Kennedy Boulevard motorists.His name is Bernie Apestein. "That gorilla has been a mainstay" said David Epstei...
Updated: 7 hours ago
MagneGas reports 200 percent hike in revenue for second quarter

MagneGas reports 200 percent hike in revenue for second quarter

MagneGas Corp., a Pinellas Park firm that makes a gas product used in metal working, reported a 201 percent spike in quarterly revenues on Tuesday. Its net loss increased from $2.2 million in the year-ago quarter to $3.5 million. Magnegas had $2.9 mi...
Updated: 7 hours ago