It was a familiar sight at the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier June 6 as Tropical Storm Andrea’s outer storm bands made their way across Anna Maria Island.
The storm’s impact was less than last year’s Tropical Storm Debby, although beach erosion was evident. It was, however, déjà vu at the city pier, where workers scrambled to protect the structure from wayward boats.
Two boats broke loose from their anchorage in Sarasota Bay and crashed into the pier during Andrea, while TS Debby sent more than a half-dozen boats crashing into the pier deck and pilings.
City officials were relieved to learn most boaters had secured their crafts, although there was enough damage to temporarily close the outer half of the pier.
A 30-foot sailboat hit the pier, but caused little damage, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale. The owner was quickly located and the boat was removed.
A 20-foot sailboat caused significant damage to a lengthy section of railing, cracked a concrete piling and loosened the pier’s center copula.
Speciale said the boat first hit the protective pilings near the floating dock, but continued to slide and hit the pier as the storm pushed it toward the Intracoastal Waterway, scraping and bumping the pier as it went.
About 30 feet of railing was loosened, there was some light damage to the wood deck of the pier and the copula will likely be removed before the pier reopens.
The copula was scheduled to be removed during the upcoming pier renovation project, according to public works director Tom Woodard, and there’s no sense in spending money to repair it.
Woodard said he didn’t expect the eastern half of the pier to remain closed for long.
“It shouldn’t be more than a couple of days,” he said. “The railing needs to be fixed and my guys will take down the copula. The one area of concern is the cracked piling and just how badly damaged it is.”
The pilings will be replaced during the renovation project, but if the integrity of the pier is jeopardized and there’s a safety issue, the closure could be longer.
“I don’t think that will be the case,” said Woodard. “We’ll get out there after the storm and do a better inspection and we’ll have a better idea at that time.”
The good news is that the floating dock adjacent to the pier endured its first test in the choppy waters of the bay as Andrea passed. The new hinges acted as they should, according to BBPD Lt. John Cosby.
“It did real well and everything did what it was supposed to do,” said Cosby. “And fortunately, none of the boats hit the floating dock.”
The floating dock was closed for more than a year when faulty hinges first created a safety issue because sections began to separate. Debby’s arrival ensured its long-term closure by causing further damage.
The floating dock reopened a week prior to Andrea, but held up well and remains open.
City workers secured the 20-foot sailboat that caused most of the damage to the pier until the owner could be contacted.
After securing the pier, Speciale updated commissioners at the June 6 city pier meeting.
“The public works guys got it handled,” said Speciale. The guys did a great job and got out there as soon as we called them. I really believe there would have been a lot more damage if they had not got there as quickly as they did.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy asked for an update on the pier renovation project.
Building official Steve Gilbert said the project remains on schedule.
“I spoke to the lead engineer of ZNS Engineering,” said Gilbert. “We should have drawings in the next couple of weeks. As soon as we have the drawings, we’ll be ready for the scope of work and request for proposal.”
Gilbert said the permitting process through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to go smoothly, but said that could be the only issue in pushing the project beyond a targeted August completion.
“The only unknown is the DEP and corps and what they will do,” said Gilbert. “The project consists of pilings going back into the same holes, so common sense says it shouldn’t be a problem.”