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Sandy causes big loss of sand

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of November 1, 2012)
Photo: Conn Way boardwalk lost its dunes.

Heavy surf churned up by the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy swallowed large swaths of Vero’s barrier island sand dunes, and dropped the level of the beach by up to eight feet in some areas. A strong gravitational pull from the nearly full moon, coupled with winds as high as 55 miles per hour, created 20-foot waves offshore and eight-foot waves crashing onto the island's beaches.

County Administrator Joe Baird said Monday he was assessing the storm damage, and was in talks with Brevard, Martin and St. Lucie counties to appeal to the governor to declare a state of emergency, the first step in getting money to restore the dunes.

The damage to the barrier island beaches was obvious.

Many of the 25-five foot dunes that lined the beach at the end of Conn Way were washed away by the relentless pounding of the waves.

Many local residents took to the beach Saturday, Sunday and Monday after being chased inside by the  heavy wind, rain and surf last Friday.

“It was like being sand-blasted,” said Georgena Blair of the Island Club.

Where sand was pulled from some areas, it washed up elsewhere.  The stairs to the beach at the Island Club were buried under the sand.

“We found an extra set of steps (washed ashore) at Humiston,” said Don Dexter, a public works department manager.

Further north atop the remaining dunes between the Grand Harbor Beach Club and Sea Oaks lay a large wooden hand railing and columns for what had been a set of stairs.

On Monday, the city of Vero Beach was able to get an emergency temporary permit to fill some sand between the boardwalk and the parking spaces in the Conn Beach area as way to stabilize the northern end of Ocean Drive.

Just last year, the city spent $67,000 filling the area under the boardwalk.  City Manager Jim O’Connor said fixing the damage Sandy left behind could cost twice as much, and possibly as much as $150,000.

It’s unclear when the city would be able to do a full-scale sand replacement project because it would need a state Department of Environmental Protection permit.

O’Connor and Dexter said the boardwalk around Jaycee Park and Conn Beach is structurally sound, though some stairs have been cordoned off as a safety measure because of the heavy sand loss and the drop from the bottom step to the beach.

City employee John Wynn said rocks and massive amounts of sand, not steal beams, are what kept the paved parking area in place. Now much of that sand is gone.

It was too early at Vero Beach 32963 press time to determine how many tons of sand will be needed in the city.

“It could have been much worse,” Dexter said.

Treasurer hunters also showed up over the weekend, combing the beaches with metal detectors.

Some were lucky.

Baird said he saw a doubloon covered in coral that one lucky man had recovered. He said another person showed him a porcelain Chinese teacup that had washed ashore.