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8/02/2012 Updates on St. Pete / Pinellas Beach Erosion From Tropical Storm Debby

A recent report by a local news channel is continuing to emphasize the erosional impacts of tropical storm Debby on the Pinellas County Gulf coastline. For anyone with a beach wedding planned or a beach vacation scheduled this summer/fall, these reports can be scary.

The news reports are always accompanied by photographs and video that show the condition of the beach DURING the storm surge from Debby. This makes it look as though there is no beach left.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Once the storm waters and high tides returned to normal, the beaches reappeared. Sure, they are not the same as they were before the storm, but this is to be expected. Beaches change constantly. There is still PLENTY of beach left, and I have pictures below to prove it.

What you have to understand is that this constant media attention is to help drum up support for getting Federal dollars to bring in more sand. At the moment, $25 million dollars from the Army Corp of Engineers is at stake. This is all about the grab for Federal money.

It always amazes me that the media and officials are so worried about what effects the loss of some sand will have on tourism, but at the same time they are creating headlines and showing pictures that broadcast to every tourist in the world that Florida’s Gulf beaches have been devastated. I actually have people emailing me saying that they were going to cancel their beach vacation or move their wedding until they saw my photographs that prove the beach is still here.

Much of the sand that was lost is actually sitting out on the sand bar and is slowly returning to the beach.

If you were a beachfront property owner and had 300 feet of artificial beach between you and the Gulf, then Debby comes along and cuts that down to 75 feet with a 4 foot drop in elevation, sure you are going to be concerned. But if you are a person just coming for a nice relaxing beach vacation, it will have virtually no impact on you at all.

In fact, if you are one of those folks who won’t go to beaches like those on Treasure Island because you have to schlepp nearly a quarter mile across hard-packed sand to get to the water, you may actually be glad that the beaches are a bit narrower now.

OK, now for some photos…

First, let’s look at one of the hardest hit beaches in Pinellas County. The following photos are from Pass-a-Grille Beach, between the Paradise Grille concession building and the rock jetty.

The first photo is one I took during Debby on June 25, 2012. It shows the storm surge completely covering the beach and carving into the sand dunes. It’s a bit wider-angle than the photos that follow, but it’s all the same place. You can use the Australian pine behind the dunes as a landmark.

Pass a Grille Beach during tropical storm Debby.

Below is the same view three days later on the 28th, zoomed in somewhat to show a narrower angle. It is slightly out-of-focus. See how much of the beach is still there after the storm waters receded? If you saw the above photo in a news story would it make a different impression on you than if you saw the below photo? Which one is a more accurate representation of what the beach will look like when you arrive for your vacation or wedding? Which one will be more effective in expediting receipt of Federal funds to pay for more sand?

Below is the same beach 3 weeks later on July 20th:

Below is the same beach 2 years earlier on August 17, 2010.

Here’s the same spot on Pass-a-Grille Beach two years earlier on August 17, 2010. Looking south toward the jetty and Shell Key. Yes, those are my feet. The main difference between this photo and the ones taken after Debby is the elevation of the beach, not so much the width of the beach.

There is no doubt that the shape of the beach changed. Lots of sand was moved from the dune and upper beach out to the sand bar. But there is still plenty of beach, so don’t worry. Also, to be fair, the post-Debby photos above all appear to be during a low or ebb tide, so the beach would naturally be narrower on a higher tide, as with any beach.

Below are a few more pics of various Pinellas County beaches taken on July 19, 2012, about 3 weeks after tropical storm Debby.

Sunset Beach, looking south, about halfway between Caddy’s and the public beach access.

The beach in front of Caddy’s beach restaurant on Sunset Beach, looking north.

Sunset Beach at the public access, looking north toward the pavilion.

Sunshine Beach. At the north end of Treasure Island, looking north toward John’s Pass and Madeira Beach.

The beach at Redington Shores, looking north from the public access at 182nd Ave.

Indian Rocks Beach, looking north.

Indian Rocks Beach, looking south.


North Redington Beach, looking south. Photo was taken about a hundred yards south of the Redington Long Pier, facing away from the pier.



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