Though it was slow moving and never reached hurricane status, Tropical Storm Debby did enough damage to Pinellas County beaches to qualify the region for federal aid.
On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers said Debby had met the agency's standard for a "significant storm event" and that it would launch a study of how much sand had been scrubbed from beaches, a weighty factor in how much funding is awarded. It will be months before Pinellas and other counties that applied for federal aid learn how much they stand to receive.
A report by University of South Florida researchers found that over the course of three days in June, Tropical Storm Debby swept 630,900 cubic yards of sand from the county's beaches. County officials estimated that restoring the beaches would cost roughly $25 million.
The agency's announcement is the first bit of good news Pinellas has had since its early efforts to obtain congressional funding for beach repair failed.
"We are over the first hurdle," said Andy Squires, coastal manager for Pinellas County.