Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard reopens after city completes storm cleanup

TAMPA

Bayshore Boulevard reopened Wednesday. Tampa made sure of that.

Working well through the night Tuesday, crews from the city's Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments cleared the road of mud, seaweed, debris and driftwood left in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby, which had flooded the busy road for days.

Most didn't lay down their hoses until 2:30 a.m.

They were back at it by 9 Wednesday morning.

"It seemed very important to the mayor that we get this done as soon as possible," Parks and Recreation director Greg Bayor said. "Normally, we wouldn't have our crews out here working overnight, but this road's been down long enough."

The road, which had been barricaded from Platt Street to Gandy Boulevard since Sunday, was cleared and safe for cars by 3 p.m., hours ahead of schedule.

"Why the sense of urgency?" Public Works director Irv Lee said. "In addition to this being a public safety issue and affecting transportation, it's all organic material. In a couple days, the smell would've been pretty onerous."

Unlike typical summer storms, Debby churned up the bay and sent water crashing over the seawall, resulting in a "yummy soup of muck" that settled on the sidewalk and street when the water receded, Lee said.

Workers will tend to the road for the next couple of days, cleaning, clearing and replanting toppled palm trees.

Nine of the 42 wild date palms planted along Bayshore Boulevard for the Republican National Convention were ripped up by the storm. The combination of strong winds and soggy soil sent the trees tumbling, workers said.

Morelli Landscaping, the company hired to install the trees for the convention, dispatched five trucks and more than a dozen workers to care for the plants.

Each tree, which cost the city $2,200 apiece, would be washed out with freshwater and treated with fungicide, said owner Joe Morelli. He expects the plants to make a full recovery.

"Nature's a wonderful thing; it'll do everything it can to survive," he said. "They're in remarkably good shape."

If the trees begin to show signs of damage — browning fronds or a weak core — Morelli said they have more on standby, ready to be planted.

Although Debby's prolonged assault on the Tampa Bay area was anything but convenient, Morelli said he's glad the storm happened when it did.

"It could have been a whole lot worse than it was," he said, noting grass, shrubs and other greenery was spared damage because they have not yet been installed.

Morelli's crews weren't the only ones replanting Wednesday morning. Residents along the scenic road stood out in their yards, collecting branches, palm fronds, seaweed and other debris that spilled onto their properties during the storm.

"It's more like Bay-bottom Boulevard today," mused Joan King, 59, as she loaded severed branches into a wheelbarrow.

Pedestrians had been free to use the road, and several joggers were back to running along the bay Wednesday morning.

Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard reopens after city completes storm cleanup 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 9:13pm]

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