Palm Beach was spared the brunt of Hurricane Dorian’s fury, but the battering of the town’s coastline by waves generated by the storm has resulted in significant erosion at Midtown Beach and near the Root Trail.
The water was up to the sea wall Tuesday afternoon on Midtown Beach where the lifeguard stations had been moved ahead of Dorian, which has left a trail of devastation in the Bahamas after making landfall there as a Category 5 storm.
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Erosion is an ongoing issue that the town has been battling as sea levels rise, Coastal Program Manager Robert Weber said. The Public Works Department anticipated that Dorian’s effects would be greater the closer its waves got to the coast.
Weber said Public Works personnel surveyed the beaches last week, in advance of the storm, visually as well with survey instruments to check the elevation of the sand.
"Once the seas start to die down a little bit, we can have a better idea of how much sand we actually lost," Weber said Wednesday. "Right now, the ocean is still pushing up against the shoreline. Once conditions improve we can make a complete assessment of sand losses, which we will probably do on Thursday at the latest."
There will be some natural recovery once the sea subsides, Weber said, because some of the sand that was pushed into the sandbar will make it back to the shoreline.
On Wednesday afternoon, Dorian’s eye was east of Jacksonville, and the five-day cone had the Category 2 storm hugging Florida’s coast, skipping Georgia, and then continuing to hug the coast north to Nova Scotia.
South Carolina, North Carolina and a small chunk of southeast Virginia remain in the forecast cone, but the center is still expected to stay offshore.
If there’s significant erosion along the rest of the Florida coastline, Weber said, there could be a declaration, which would enable the town to put an aid claim to FEMA. "The town is planning a beach renourishment this coming winter with the Corps of Engineers which would replace the sand losses sustained from hurricanes Matthew and Irma."
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused significant loss at Midtown Beach, while Irma caused erosion to the town’s beaches and damaged the Sand Transfer Plant pipeline.
Weber said that the renourishment plan for the town’s beaches has been in the works for two years. "It takes time to go through the claims process for federal funds."
The last full renourishment of Midtown Beach was in 2015.
A proposed solution for the beach erosion stretching from The Breakers to Midtown Beach was supposed to be unveiled on Jan. 24, but the presentation has been delayed. Director of Public Works H. Paul Brazil said that the proposal is an ongoing project, and he didn’t have a timetable for when it would be presented to theTown Council.
In May, the council approved $189,000 for design work for a plan to build sand-trapping structures and modify groins, which interrupt and trap the longshore flow of sand. The project cost was estimated at $3.6 million, not including the cost of sand to fill the groins.