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Pinellas beaches show effects from Hurricane Hermine

City crews in Pinellas County's beach communities have been cleaning up debris and filling in eroded sand that created 3- and 4-foot drops at beach accesses after Hurricane Hermine's strong winds and tides battered the shoreline.

The mid-county beach communities like Indian Rocks Beach and Redington Shores were hit the hardest, according to a survey by the University of South Florida's Coastal Research Laboratory.

Professor Ping Wang, director of the laboratory, said the storm surge and wave action along the county's shoreline were greater than those of Tropical Storm Debby in 2012, the last significant storm to impact the area. However, neither lasted as long as during Debby.

Data collected one day after the storm and compared with data collected two weeks before show significant dune erosion and sand escarpments on beachfronts from Sand Key in the north to Mullet Key at Fort Desoto Park, Wang said.

"It passed the coast rather closely and generated very energetic conditions," he said.

Areas with wider beaches such as the north end of Sand Key near Clearwater Pass and Treasure Island's central beachfront survived the storm better than areas like Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and Redington Shores with thinner beachfronts.

The state granted an emergency permit to Indian Rocks Beach and other impacted communities to haul in additional replacement sand.

About 30 truckloads of sand purchased from a private company were dumped this week in Indian Rocks Beach to help alleviate the scouring that occurred at beach crossovers, City Manager Greg Mims said.

"We have 28 beach access points and a large number have a 3- to 4-foot drop," he said.

The city also lost beach signage, and recycling and garbage cans that were located along its 2½ miles of beachfront.

Mims estimates the emergency sand replacement and restoring other damage will cost the city around $30,000.

Though Treasure Island beaches might not look as severely damaged, Wang said that doesn't mean they weren't significantly impacted.

"It's probably because of their 2014 beach renourishment," he said. "But the beach is wider to start with so that doesn't mean they didn't lose a lot of sand."

Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard said the hardest hit areas were to the north and south — Sunshine and Sunset beaches.

"It created an escarpment along a portion of the beach so that police and sanitation vehicles can no longer get to some areas," he said.

"We definitely have a flatter beach profile now. We are waiting to see how much beach returns and the impact of the winter storms," Silverboard said.

Both Mims and Silverboard are hoping a scheduled beach renourishment will be moved up after further details of the recent storm are analyzed.

"It does appear there was significant dune erosion," said John Bishop, Pinellas County coastal management coordinator, who has made frequent trips to survey the beaches since the storm.

The county is pushing the Army Corps of Engineers for an estimated $25 million for the renourishment of Sand Key and $12 million for Treasure Island in hopes of moving up the project to 2017, Bishop said.

"We have been trying to get the renourishment moved up for some time now so the storm has given us more impact," he said. "It all comes down to federal funding."

Wang and others are still working on a more detailed analysis and expect to have more details soon.

"We should have numbers on the amount of sand lost in a week or so," Wang said.

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