ST. PETE BEACH — Tiptoeing around towels and beach chairs, Morgan Kozlowski tried to find a sliver of unclaimed sand at Pass-a-Grille.
She moved farther south and found a spot near her friends. After plopping her belongings on the sand, she glanced at the water just a few feet away.
Kozlowski, from St. Petersburg, was among hundreds on Wednesday who flocked to the beach — what was left of it — to celebrate the Fourth of July.
At Pass-a-Grille during high tide, only several feet of sand remained. She was undeterred.
"This is our favorite spot," she said. "So we came anyway."
Last week, Tropical Storm Debby hammered much of the Pinellas County coastline. Beach parking lots were flooded. Shorelines shrank. Waves wiped out half a colony of black skimmers at Indian Shores Beach and several turtle nests along the coastline.
On the Fourth of July, many beachgoers said they were amazed to see the changes and erosion wrought by Debby. Towels and umbrellas were crammed along the sand.
"The new beach is interesting," said Pass-a-Grille resident Karla Ramstad. "It's still beautiful. I guess this is what we have now."
Businesses said they were surprised with the turnout.
At the Hurricane on Gulf Way in Pass-a-Grille, manager Bruno Falkenstein said business has picked up at the restaurant since Debby ravaged the shores.
As the storm passed last week, customers started trickling in. On Wednesday, Falkenstein said he expected between 600 and 1,000 people to stop at the Hurricane.
"This is really the busiest Fourth of July we've had since 2007," he said.
Nicolette Conran, manager at the Paradise Grille, also on Gulf Way, said business was booming, part of which she attributed to those curious about the erosion.
"Everybody was kind of interested," she said. "That helps a lot. I just hope the novelty continues."
At the Paradise Grille, people used to be able to step off the pavement onto the sand.
Now, it's all water.
Ramstad and her dog, Razcal, a Maltese-poodle mix, were walking near the Paradise Grille on Wednesday. Razcal loves to fetch seashells. He usually runs from the back of Paradise Grille into the sand. But he recently stopped dead in his tracks, short of plunging into the water.
On Wednesday, he stood on the edge of the pavement and glanced at the waves below.
Ramstad, who has lived in Pass-a-Grille for three years, pointed at a sandbar where a large pool forms during low tide. "There's a new hot tub right here that Debby put in," she said.
Tom Pick, 30, was waiting for low tide so he and others could play a bean bag game on the sandbar.
"It's insane," Pick said. "I didn't think this many people would be down here."
Bobby Roberts of Tampa was among the curious. He regularly visits Pass-a-Grille and has been coming out to the beach to see the storm's aftermath. "It's still better than nothing," he said.
Michelle Luckett of Atlanta said she visits Pass-a-Grille, where she previously lived, every year. She was last here in April 2011.
Luckett said she was surprised to see the changes at the beach. "It's pretty significant compared to what was here a year ago."
North of Pass-a-Grille, other beaches were also packed. The parking lot at the St. Petersburg municipal beach in Treasure Island was full. Last week, the water had flooded a playground there. But on Wednesday, the water seemed to have receded.
At St. Pete Beach, regulars said a lot of sand is missing. But despite the erosion, Robert Caraballo, who has lived in St. Pete Beach for five years, said there were more people than usual.
"This is the most packed I've seen it," he said.
In Clearwater, Pier 60 employee Larry Holder said the beach was full and about 40 fishermen were out at the pier.
At Pass-a-Grille, Ramstad stared out at the water as Razcal paced below.
"This is Florida," she said. "People just want to have their fun in the sun."