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East coast beaches face heavy erosion

Weeks of wind and pounding surf have chewed away at Florida's world-famous beaches in some of the worst erosion in a generation, leaving some sunbathers with a pathetically narrow strip of sand on which to spread a towel.

Erosion this year is so extreme, communities may have to dredge sand to replenish beaches.

In the meantime, the tourism industry _ already reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks _ is worrying. The sand loss comes at the start of the winter season, when tourists flock to Florida to escape the cold.

"We're going to see the complaints as we get into the season and the snowbirds make their way down to Florida," said Mike Grimme. He said about 30 percent of the sand has washed away from the three beachfront hotels he owns in Fort Lauderdale.

Up and down Florida's Atlantic coast, high winds and surf have wreaked havoc.

The sand used to stretch more than 150 feet in front of New York and Sheridan streets along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, a 2{-mile promenade lined with gift shops and cafes. Now there is only 15 to 25 feet of beach in some spots at high tide.

The beaches get eroded every fall and winter with the shift in winds. But this year's combination of high tides, northeasterly winds and sharp waves has been particularly brutal, causing more erosion than have some major hurricanes.