Beaches take brunt of Dorian’s $15M hit

After Hurricane Dorian brushed by Brevard, county officials reported “no significant damage,” yet early estimates put the price tag upwards of $15 million, mostly in lost beach sand and extra personnel costs.

That number could surpass $17 million once all the assessments are in, according to County Manager Frank Abbate. Municipalities’ own damage tallies could add to the countywide total.

Brevard County spokesman Don Walker said Abbate briefed elected officials last Thursday. “A preliminary estimate of damages puts beach erosion at roughly $7 million to $10 million, which could change,” Walker said, adding that parks, docks and beach crossovers sustained up to $800,000 in damage, and costs related to the opening and manning of 14 shelters and other emergency operations-related costs could amount to $6 million.

The fully-activated Emergency Operations Center gathered 23 county departments, plus municipalities, law enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard, and aid organizations like the American Red Cross and the United Way.

Satellite Beach southward lost the most beach sand. “Parks like Bonsteel Park suffered the most significant damage, so I would say in the mid-reach, south reach areas,” Walker said. Brevard County Beach Management Coordinator Mike McGarry said visual inspections showed the hardest hit beaches may be northward of Cocoa Beach, but “in portions of the South Beaches, the erosion escarpment is closest to homes and businesses, so that might be considered ‘worst’ by some even if the actual volume of sand lost is lower,” McGarry said.

Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan said his city incurred some damage to ramps to the beach, and railings. McGarry said he was not surprised at the way Dorian chewed Brevard’s beaches. “The storm arrived at a new moon spring tide, the highest tide of the year so far.”

Was the reef damaged? “I do not expect so, because the waves were larger during Irma and that did not damage reef. Surveys of reef are pending,” McGarry said, adding that the mid-reach sand project should resume in very late 2019.

Mandatory evacuations posed a dilemma for thousands of barrier island residents. “Our concern would be that people may make evacuation, sheltering and preparation decisions not based on the current storm’s threat but on their experience with previous storms,” said Brevard County Emergency Management Director Kimberly Prosser.

Ryan said people often hunker down despite evacuation orders to check on their properties. “To alleviate some of those concerns we initiated an Indian Harbour Beach post-storm home safety windshield inspection,” Ryan said. On request, officers drove by post-storm and reported any obvious structural damage back to the owners. “Hopefully, this initiative will provide a comfort level of our citizens to adhere to mandatory evacuation orders for future storm events,” Ryan said.

Kate L. Mansfield, Ph.D., Associate Professor Director, Marine Turtle Research Group, at the University of Central Florida said Brevard was on track for another record nesting season before Dorian. “These late-season storms tend to impact green turtle nests more than loggerhead and leatherback nests,” she said. “We expect that there will be considerable green turtle nest loss.”

Island first responders stayed on duty three, four or even five straight days straight. Despite those long hours, Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker said city personnel were back at it Saturday to help collect items for devastated areas in the Bahamas through a Keep Brevard Beautiful program. She said of the Bahamas, “That’s the type of damage we could have. Sobering is a good word for it. We had half a truck filled by 10:30 a.m.”

Our area had one death related to the hurricane: 68-year-old David Bradley of Indialantic died while boarding up his South Miramar Avenue home on Sept. 1.

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