Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tropical Storm Debby delivered massive losses to Pinellas beaches, USF study says

Tropical Storm Debby swept more sand off of Pinellas County's beaches than any other storm in the past decade, according a report released Wednesday by University of South Florida researchers.

Over the course of three days in June, Debby scrubbed the county's coastline of 630,900 cubic yards of sand, enough to fill about 193 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Already, county officials have estimated that restoring the beaches to their previous state could cost $25 million.

That estimate rose even higher Wednesday as officials added $866,000 to the total, the cost of restoring Fort De Soto beach and Honeymoon Island.

The study by Ping Wang, a University of South Florida geology professor, and doctoral student Tiffany Roberts, found that beaches in the southern barrier islands fared the worst against Debby's southerly winds. The storm pushed sand north, depositing most of it a few feet from shore and creating wide and shallow sand bars.

The hurricane season stretches from June 1 to Nov. 30 and, with more storms on the way, the county's beaches are more vulnerable.

At Pass-a-Grille beach, the dune line retreated by an average of almost 12 feet and the area lost just over 25 feet of beach as its shoreline moved inland. Indian Shores and North Redington, whose beaches that were given sand infusions in 2006, were among the most severely eroded. Both lost about 34 feet of beach. Sunset Beach, rebuilt in 2010, lost about 21 feet.

"For the 11 years that we have been studying the beach along these three barrier islands, Debby is probably the worst," Wang said. "It caused the most widespread beach erosion."

Before Debby, the most destructive storm to hit county beaches was Hurricane Frances, Wang said. In 2004, Frances brought stronger winds to the bay area, but passed more quickly, causing less overall erosion.

As well as tearing up beaches that are critical to the area's economy, Debby also damaged the ongoing beach restoration work on Sand Key. The $31.5 million project was in its early stages, said Andy Squires, the county's coastal manager, but by the time it is done, he expects to have about 25 percent less sand there than anticipated.

"We're not going to be able to get it back to quite where we want it to be, but the beach will be in much better shape after the Sand Key project is over," he said.

As Squires spoke at a news conference on Sand Key, a dredge a dozen miles offshore was pulling up sand and saltwater, which was then pumped onshore to widen the beach.

The county has applied for federal aid to repair its beaches, but has not received any assurances that the money will arrive. Squires said he is hopeful that once the Sand Key project is complete, the dredge can continue down the coastline to other beaches in need.

Not all beaches lost sand. At Belleair Shore, the beach grew about 10 feet wider after Debby.

This was surprising, Wang said, because no additional sand has been added to Belleair Shore for years and the beach has a seawall, which normally takes a pounding from waves during a large storm. It was likely, he said, that the beach benefited from Debby's push north.

"Generally speaking, it lucked out this time," Wang said. "Another storm may be a different story."

Tropical Storm Debby delivered massive losses to Pinellas beaches, USF study says 08/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  2. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  3. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  4. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile

    World

    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  5. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990