Rick Viera | Submitted
Tropical Storm Debby destroyed a houseboat at
the Cortez docks on Sunday night when Sarasota Bay
climbed up over the commercial fishing docks.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Tropical Storm Debby developed in the Gulf of Mexico last weekend and left a trail of damage in Manatee County and throughout the Tampa Bay area without coming any closer than 200 miles from the mainland.
High winds and torrential rains pelted the Island all day Sunday and into Sunday night, causing widespread flooding and downing tree limbs and power lines.
Officially, the Island received 5.2 inches of rain on Sunday and 4.6 inches on Monday, inundating side streets and major thoroughfares alike. Sunday afternoon, wind gusts up to 54 mph battered the Island as driving rain briefly created virtual whiteouts for those motorists determined to drive through the blustery conditions.
By Monday, as Debby turned back toward the northeast, Island officials were able to get out and assess the situation and it appears all three cities escaped any major damage.
The Bridge Street Pier did take a significant hit when several sailboats broke free of their moorings and were blown into the structure’s south side. Two of the boats caused damage when they became lodged between the restaurant and the walkway. One of them knocked down a power pole. A little farther east, a sailboat that was tied to the floating day dock, and the waves caused it to rub against the boat. In addition, another boat was forced into the dock and was dragged east, damaging planks in the walkway. That boat finally sank, right next to the dock.
Among the remaining boats moored south of the pier, some showed damage and a small catamaran was flipped over..
There also was some localized damage to homes and landscaping, but the most serious impact to business was at Time Saver, 5353 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, where a fairly new façade over the front of the building fell to the ground. There were no injuries, but the convenience and wine store was closed Monday.
However, the most serious damage on the Island may have been to the beaches themselves. The gale-force winds churned up giant 17-foot swells that pounded the shoreline, carving out large bites of sand right up to the dune line.
On Monday, a few beach walkers were undaunted by a fierce onshore rip current in ankle deep water and a significantly smaller beach – in some areas none at all – forcing walkers up into protected sand dunes where walking is prohibited.
The Gulf encroached on many dunes, leaving three-foot bluffs with the roots of sea oats dangling into the water where gentle slopes had been.
The surf uprooted stakes from sea turtle nests and left them in the sea oats, making it difficult for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch officials to say how many of the Island’s 180 nests may have been lost, although Director Suzi Fox said she was sure all the shorebird nests were gone.
At the Seaside motel in Bradenton Beach, the beach was impassable at high tide, a rare occurrence, due to severe erosion.
“I don’t have any permanent damage,” owner David Teitelbaum said, adding that the seawall extends down 12-15 feet.
At the Gulffront BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach, Mike Shannon was concerned about erosion of the rock seawall and the parking lot and also about permitting requirements to replace the sand.
The erosion was having little effect on business, however, and the restaurant remained open.
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Elliott Falcione said he had no plans to tap a $1 million emergency fund designated for marketing and promotions in case of a disaster such as a hurricane or oil spill.
“If we feel that the perception of the destination is affected, we can use it for marketing and promotions to say the beaches are open,” he said, adding that the money cannot be allocated for beach renourishment.
The fund was instituted after a series of hurricanes sideswiped the Island in 2004-05, producing worldwide news reports that dampened international travel to the area.
A recent surplus of nearly $750,000 in resort tax revenues that Manatee County
Commissioner Carol Whitmore has requested for beach renourishment has not been audited or confirmed, Falcione said.
Whitmore made the request at a meeting of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council on June 18 in which Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department, told the TDC, “Our (beach renourishment) projects are designed to last eight to 10 years, but any one storm could wash the entire beach away.”
The board voted to spend $250,000 of the surplus to assist the Manatee Players in building its new theater.
Meanwhile, back in Bradenton Beach, Police Chief Sam Speciale said they have shut down the pier, although the restaurant remains open.
“We’re going to ask (pier engineer) Charles Sego to look at the pilings and depending on their condition, we might reopen the pier,” he said. “Until then, the pier will remain closed indefinitely.”
The city of Anna Maria had flooding in the north end of the Island. Roads remained underwater Monday morning and residents were out asking drivers to avoid the roads under water because the waves left by the traffic were flooding their homes.