Beach erosion the most lasting impact of Ian here


Compared to destruction levied across Florida, our community got incredibly lucky when the outer bands of a major hurricane blew through last week, and one week post-Ian, everything looks essentially the same here as it did pre-Ian – except the beaches.

Erosion will be the longest-lasting impact of Ian here, and at press time Monday, Wabasso Beach Park and Tracking Station Beach Park are still closed. “All beaches experienced erosion due to the wave action of this storm. Until ingress and egress is determined to be safe, these parks will remained closed,” said Indian River County spokesperson Kathy Copeland.

“Crews are assessing impacts and working remedy any issues. We will post openings as soon as the determination is made to re-open these areas to the public,” she said.

Vero Beach Public Works Director Matthew Mitts reported that the city saw beach erosion at the bottom of the dune crossover stairs along the Conn Beach boardwalk south of Jaycee Park.

“We have closed the stairways where there is a large dropoff from the bottom of the steps down to the beach,” Mitts said Monday.

While the shoreline got chewed up, other areas had unwanted sand deposits like the Humiston Beach boardwalk, which was inundated, thanks to rough surf.

For many, widespread power outages were the most inconvenient part of last week’s storm. At some point, more than 53,000 Indian River County homes and businesses had lost power.

Florida Power & Light crews, plus borrowed crews from out of state who were staged in Fort Pierce, fanned out across Indian River County to restore power to roughly 38,000 customers by last Thursday. Another 10,000 homes were restored on Friday, followed by 500 on Saturday and nearly 5,000 customers who got their power back on Sunday.

As of Monday morning, only five FPL customers here were still without power.

“Power outages impacted multiple traffic signals throughout the county. There were no significant problems with county facilities that resulted from the outages,” Copeland said.

Neighborhoods all around Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital showed up on FPL’s outage map, into the weekend. “There were power outages all across Indian River County, but luckily no impact to the hospital or outpatient buildings,” hospital spokesperson Arlene Allen-Mitchell said.

Though pockets of the North barrier Island had power loss that lasted more than a few hours, the most extensive damage to electrical equipment was on the mainland.

Brian Gallagher lost power at his residence at Palm Estates Condominiums near Target and the Ryanwood Shopping Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, and his lights did not come back on until Friday afternoon.

“I called about 50 times and I understand they don’t want to give out estimates of when the power will be back on, but I just wanted to have some idea – will it be a few hours or will it be a few days,” Gallagher said, adding that he does not have a generator.

“I did get one person on the phone to tell me that maybe some underground cable or equipment had exploded or been damaged and that’s major. I understand how that could take a long time to repair underground,” he said.

Gallagher was eager to get back on the Internet because he is an engineer in charge of monitoring the systems at the algae research farm he manages out west of town. The farm lost power, too, but had emergency backup generators.

“I’m grateful they were working on it and got it back on, and that the storm didn’t affect us the way it did in Southwest Florida where it really hurt and killed,” Gallagher said.

Florida Power & Light’s media department did not respond to Vero Beach 32963’s questions about the reason for the massive power outages that began last Wednesday before Ian’s winds reached Vero.

Other than leaving residents with no air-conditioning or refrigeration, Ian just made a mess and gave everyone a complimentary tree trimming, according to county, Vero and Shores officials.

“We were fortunate that the main issues that resulted from the heavy rains and standing water on roadways (were) temporary lane closures and we posted advisories on social media. All in all, the county was fortunate,” Copeland said.

Vero’s Mitts reported “no major damage to city buildings and properties. Minor damages and issues included a few shingles missing at Leisure Square and minor siding damage to the Marina Dock Office Building and docks.”

The city’s biggest issue this week was the removal of vegetative debris – palm fronds and downed tree limbs – and that seemed to be a universal challenge.

For the county, Copeland said, “we are not planning a ‘special’ debris collection. We have posted numerous advisories for county residents regarding Landfill and Convenience Center operations. As expected, there were long lines at the Landfill, initially, due to the requirement to weigh the debris. However, the lines have improved.”

County solid waste convenience centers helped to handle the debris load, she said.

“Additionally, Waste Management subscribers can place their vegetative debris at the curb for pick-up according to standard specifications; less than 50 pounds, less than 3 inches in diameter and up to four cubic yards,” Copeland said.

On the barrier island, flooding and windblown storm debris made a nearly four-mile stretch of Jungle Trail north of the Wabasso Causeway to the Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge look like a muddy creek as Ian dumped heavy rains on the unpaved road. It remains closed to vehicles this week while the ground stabilizes and debris is removed.

In Indian River Shores, Town Manager Jim Harpring said, “we have some vegetative debris, but not so much that we felt it warranted bringing in a contractor to clear everything out.”

Town buildings weathered the storm fine, no leaks or damage, except one chain-link fence that was blown over, Harpring said. “And our single traffic light kept functioning.”

Harpring, who experienced numerous hurricanes growing up in Dade County, said his heart goes out to Southwest Florida residents now faced with the challenge of rebuilding their lives.

“We really cannot complain,” he said.

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