New sand addition at Turtle Beach takes a hit from Hurricane Idalia’s powerful waves
By John Morton
With history repeating itself, to some extent, the beach at the southern part of Siesta Key has been impacted by a hurricane shortly after being renourished.
In March of 2016, more than 700,000 cubic yards of sand were added to the area around Turtle Beach to offset erosion. In early September of that year, Hurricane Hermine washed a good amount of that away.
Fast forward to April of 2023, when more than 90,000 cubic yards of sand were trucked in to the area to replace what was lost by Hermine. On Aug. 30, did Hurricane Idalia once again sweep away a significant amount of sand?
Sarasota County reports that it’s too early to determine how much sand is gone, although the eye test certainly says the beach has changed. The wildcard, however, is whether or not the sand mostly just shifted a bit to the south and remains within reach to be salvaged.
On Sept. 5, when tides calmed down and water clarity improved, officials got their first good look.
“It allowed staff to observe what appears to be a significant near-shore sandbar created by the storm. If this is the case, the sand may still be in the system, and while it may not be visible on the beach, it continues to be within the project area,” a county spokesperson said.
Thanks to the new sand’s different look and feel, tracking it may be easier.
“The truck-haul project is easily distinguished by its texture and a lighter color than the original sand,” the spokesperson added. “Subjective observation indicates that a substantial amount of the new sand remains on the beach. Some sand loss was previously documented south of Turtle Beach along the rock revetment at the condos. A substantial amount of sand was also pushed up onto Blind Pass Road south of the condos.”
One of the condo complexes impacted is Fisherman’s Cove, located just south of Turtle Beach at 9000 Blind Pass Rd.
General manager Dan Bronkhorst reports that the barrier rocks which were buried in the spring by the new sand are once again exposed, and that his property also lost an entire protective berm and two-thirds of its protective coastal vegetation hammock.
“What did survive kept the water from crashing up against our building,” he said.
He estimated, once tides receded, that about 40 feet in width of sand of was gone. Upon completion of the April sand addition, about 75 feet existed, he added.
He feared it would be worse.
“We were chewing our nails for a few days,” he said. “It was hard to determine, with the high tides and the supermoons.”
Bronkhorst also fears another financial hit with the beach being minimized. During the renourishment project, when equipment was often staged throughout the area, he faced cancellations and refunds.
“We lost $58,000 in revenue,” he said, “and I’m worried about seeing more of that.”
As for residents toward the southern end of Blind Pass Road, sure enough they found substantial amounts of the new sand on their roadway and in their yards.
Resident Steve Lexow said homeowners hired a private company to move the sand, and there was enough of it to require two days of work by a Bobcat and front-loader. Currently, much of the sand sits in piles at the top of the shoreline.
Mike Evanoff, whose home is southernmost on Blind Pass Road, was among those who took the brunt of it.
“Our road was crushed with 5 to 6 feet of sand, and my house and some of the other homes on the gulf side were hit hard with sand and water in the homes. Also, 3 to 5 feet of sand were in the front yards and on the driveways,” he said. “All landscaping was destroyed, and lots of turtle eggs were observed as well.”
Evanoff said he had not heard whether or not the county was planning to reclaim the sand and move it elsewhere, and he’s not worried about it.
“I am happy with the extra sand on our end of the beach,” he said.