Little and large things provide the signs of rebuilding after a Category 5 hurricane.
For Mexico Beach, which was in the eye of Hurricane Michael when it roared ashore in October, one of the heftier signs of recovery arrived last Saturday as a significant portion of the city’s canal was re-opened to boat traffic.
“The canal is open,” said Mayor Al Cathey. “We’ve worked so hard to get our boaters back in business.”
And, Cathey added, Mexico Beach has succeeded in reopening a critical public water access point when many other communities impacted by Michael have not.
Further, the city will be able to make full use out of the sand it is dredging from the canal, the sand being stockpiled for use in an emergency berm project.
“We are beginning to stockpile sand for our dune restoration project,” said Administrator Tonya Castro. “The good news is we have our own sand removed from the canal through dredging.”
All of which, Public Works Director Philip Hall would likely attest, is a whole lot easier to say or type than execute.
Right now, the canal is open from the boat ramp, U.S. 98, to the second sandbar, Hall said.
The city’s dredge will make a turn to the north and dredge along the city boat slips all the way to the north side of the 32nd Street bridge, a process that Hall is timing in terms of months rather than weeks.
But, Hall noted there was plenty of work to be done before the dredge and a companion boat could even be deployed.
“Every step though was a step in the right direction,” Hall said, before adding what may have been one of the understatements of the year. “It was a job.”
The first order of business in restoring the canal, an important waterway for the city not far removed from being a fishing village, was removing storm debris, Hall said.
“It was absolutely horrible,” Hall said. “We are still working on it.”
Toiling over the debris consumed the first two-and-a-half months after Michael.
Now, storm debris pick-up in the canal is largely confined to a boat working in front of the dredge screening the water for remaining debris.
The city is already stockpiling the sand, as Castro noted.
Hall said the amount already set aside is equal to 653 truckloads, he estimated 60,000 cubic yards.
“We are going to be able to recycle the sand, you could say, and use it for that emergency berm project,” Hall said.
The city has already chemically-tested the sand for contaminants and had it analyzed for beach quality; once dried it is expected to assume the color of beach sand.