Study shows scale of erosion from Debby at Pinellas beaches
Three Pinellas County beaches lost a total of 630,900 cubic yards of sand during Tropical Storm Debby, according to a study by the University of South Florida. Initial estimates put the cost of repairing the erosion caused by the storm at $25 million, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. USF researchers Dr. Ping Wang and Tiffany Roberts collected data about two weeks before the storm at Long Key, where St. Pete Beach is located, Sand Key, just south of Clearwater Beach, and Treasure Island. They returned about one week after Debby and found the sand loss along various sections of the beach. Most of the sand accumulated on the nearshore bar, which saw a gain of 657,700 cubic yards of sand, researchers said.The study was presented to Pinellas County, which is applying for emergency funds to restore its beaches. It was also presented to the Army Corps, which could use it to re-evaluate its preliminary damage assessment. When the storm hit, the Army Corps was working on nourishing Sand Key, which involved 1.25 million cubic yards of sand at a cost of $31.5 million. If emergency funds are obtained for Pinellas, it could be an opportunity to revise the Army Corps' ongoing work and expand the nourishment project to other beaches in need, said Mary Burrell, spokeswoman for Pinellas County.