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Palm Coast Monday, Oct. 3, 2022 1 month ago

Flagler County dune restoration, walkover damages are high priorities

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Flagler Beach is working with the county to identify hazards and apply for government aid.
by: Brent Woronoff Associate Editor

Not only was the Flagler Beach pier heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian, but almost all of the dunes on Flagler County’s coastline are gone and all of the beach walkovers were damaged, Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson said.

“The question becomes how expensive is the damage,” Whitson said on Monday, Oct. 3.

A coastal engineering team out of Jacksonville from the Mott MacDonald company was expected to arrive early in the morning on Tuesday, Oct. 4 to begin assessing the damages.  

“We are also working with Flagler County,” Whitson said. “I can't say enough positive things about Flagler County and the (Emergency Operations Center) and (County Engineer) Faith Alkhatib and her team. We've all been working together.”

It could take several days before the engineering team completes its report, Whitson said.

“I know it's frustrating that we can't have answers as fast as the public wants,” he said. “But believe me, we are working it carefully to make sure we get the maximum amount of consideration and of course, reimbursement from the federal government.”

City employees have put up caution tape on walkovers that are obviously damaged, but people have been tearing the tape down and proceeding down the walkovers anyway. They do that at their own risk, Whitson said.

“I would caution anyone in the public to look carefully before they try to access the beach, because there are many hazards in the water you don't see,” he said. “There are nails, boards, other hazards. It's just a touchy situation right now.”

County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord is also recommending that people stay away from the ocean for the time being.

“We know everyone is ready to get back to some semblance of normal life, but we are cautioning against swimming, surfing, or even walking in the ocean at this point in time,” Lord said in a news release. “Losing half the pier means there could literally be tons of debris in the water — things you may or may not be able to see, and things that could really hurt you.”

Florida Department of Health-Flagler took samples of the Atlantic to test for bacteria levels. Environmental Health Director John Bey said due to the storm elevated bacteria levels are likely in some areas. Test results are expected back by the end of the week.

“We are going to be appealing to the state and federal government to assist us with additional sand as fast as we can. I'm already seeing areas that are dangerously close to A1A.”

— WILLIAM WHITSON, Flagler Beach city manager

The severe dune erosion puts the coastal communities in a vulnerable situation, Whitson said, especially if another storm or even a terrible nor’easter should threaten the county again.

“We are going to be appealing to the state and federal government to assist us with additional sand as fast as we can,” he said.” I'm already seeing areas that are dangerously close to A1A.”

A sinkhole developed around the 14th Street South area, he said, adding “We could see other (dune) areas that have been weakened that are close to the highway.”

An Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment project had been previously approved for Flagler Beach and could begin in June.

Whitson said the city has been trying to expedite repairs, but he’s asking residents and visitors to be patient.

“We're working actively with (the Florida Department of Transportation) and the county to identify hazards as fast as we can. And we ask people to be mindful,” he said. “I know the weather is beautiful. I know that people want to come out and get back to normal, and we do too, but we have to be mindful of what just happened.”

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