The sigh of relief about relatively light winds during Hurricane Matthew last October has given way to a groan of realization that storm surge caused massive dock and seawall damage along the eastern shores of both the Indian and Banana rivers in Brevard County.
In response, the state Department of Environmental Protection relaxed the regulations – which went back into effect March 1 – requiring permits for the dock repairs.
“If there was something left [of the dock] and they are just putting back what was there originally, they didn’t need a permit per the emergency order,” said Kimberly Rush, state Department of Environmental Protection permitting program administrator for the central district covering Brevard.
Still busy with Hurricane Matthew repair work and considering hiring additional staff is Steve DeFillips, owner of East Coast Docks of Melbourne Beach.
“Obviously, after the storm we were flooded with phone calls. The phones wouldn’t stop ringing and we started making lists by location. About two days after doing that we realized there was no way [we could take jobs in other areas]. We ended up only taking phone calls for people who lived in Melbourne Beach and Indialantic,’’ he said.
DeFillips believes that the water levels in the Indian and Banana rivers had been elevated before the storm as water control officials took measures to prevent flooding in the interior of the state. There was also a King Tide at the time.
When the storm veered east, it was the winds on the backside of the storm that seemed to pile up the water right onto the docks, DeFillips said.
“That had already raised the water levels so when the winds came, that amplified that effect, especially on the eastern shore of both rivers.
“It really stacked the water high – I’m talking 6 feet of storm surge, which is so unlikely. We’ve never had a storm surge like that. With the river already being high, the rainfall, and the wind driven water, it was bad,’’ he said.
Most docks were damaged by pressure surging up against the bottom of platforms and walkways.
“It was waves beating a dock to death and especially all the larger platforms with more surface area. A lot of docks with platforms were 90 percent ripped off and walkways were lifted but maybe not completely taken,’’ DeFillips said.
Damage depended largely on the age and condition of docks and how high they were off the water, he said.
“The higher they were, the survivability was better because they took less storm surge for a shorter period of time. The docks that were only a few feet off the water took the biggest beating. All the older structures failed sooner because they were in a weakened state,’’ he said.
DeFillips was surprised by the amount of work that flooded his business after the storm during the initial rush to get repairs completed under the relaxed emergency permitting rules.
“There’s just dock after dock after dock. There were a lot of contractors who came in from out of town, and there were some fly by nights. People were very anxious to get stuff done, so they would get a handy man and neighbors to put stuff back together.
“All your reputable dock companies and marine contractors are inundated and will be that way for at least a year. We are currently booked out 10 months,’’ he said.
DeFillips thinks Hurricane Matthew will go down in history for its shoreline impact.
“I would say, compared to other hurricanes, the winds weren’t as strong, but because of the wind direction and river surge, more damage occurred in hurricane Matthew than in the 2004 hurricanes,” he said.