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Beach recovers and cleans up after tropical storm

July 4, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

She may have just been called only a tropical storm, but Debby inflicted some hurricane-like damage on Fort Myers Beach last week.

The slow moving storm was named on Saturday, June 23, and impacted Estero Island until Thursday, June 28, when Town staff, businesses, residents and nonprofit groups were able to begin reassessments and repairs.

Erosion-stressed Leonardo Arms Condominiums had to add more heavy-duty sand bags to their property bordering the beachfront due to the damage caused by strong wave action and the rise of the water table caused by the storm's high tides. Large sand bags were already embedded for temporary protective measures in late April, a result from tidal action that began cutting back the existing bank at the property and threatening the foundation of one of the condo buildings.

Article Photos

Workers had to add more sand bags to Leonardo Arms after Tropical Storm Debby.

"We weathered the storm," said Leonardo Arms resident Mike Celenza, who lives in Building 2 where the cut embankment was just a few feet away.

On March 19, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved a resolution to issue a Declaration of Local Shoreline Emergency from the Department of Environmental Protection to allow Town officials to seek a permit for short-term preventive barriers. That was accomplished after Leonardo Arms officials submitted an engineered plan with surveys to the Town to show the location and stress of the troubled area.

During Tropical Storm Debbie, more sand bags were trucked in by flatbed trucks to add to the temporary protective barriers. The erosion, which was 23 feet away from the building before the storm, appeared to have receded the property even more.

At Newton Park, there was a noticeable four- to five-feet drop from sea wall to beachfront since the storm began. Next door, Town workers repaired stairs that provided a walkway to those that parked at Strandview Avenue beach access. Other beach accesses suffered the same or worse.

Sea turtle nests scattered along the Beach shoreline also suffered through the higher tides, heavy waves and standing water.

Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield offered a dismal report Friday. Of the 46 nests along the island, 24 were washed away. Of the 22 existing nests, only five were intact and the remaining 17 are questionable in regards to eggs producing hatchlings.

"We've roped them off, but the likelihood of their being successful is 50/50," said Haverfield. "We've had to rebury some eggs in nest areas. The problem with reptilian eggs is there is plenty of room inside and their embryos will stick to the side of the shell and basically get ripped off."

On a positive note, the "Turtle Lady" reported two false crawls Friday morning and one Thursday.

"We still have a month and maybe two weeks into August for nesting," she said. "The false crawls mean they are still out there and ready to come into shore, provided that everyone is still turtle friendly. Someone on Bonita Beach was taking photos of a sea turtle and she aborted."

Lights from cameras, porch lights, flashlights and other sources scare sea turtles and cause them to abort their mission of nesting. Natural occurrences, like storms, are accountable.

"It's sad, frustrating and stressful for turtlers who have put in a lot of hours of work," said Haverfield. "Had it been man-made damage, that would have been a different matter. But this is nature, and sea turtles have survived nature for 200 million years."



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