Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike Retrospective on Pensacola Beach

Hurricane Ike came not much closer than 250 miles from Pensacola Beach. Even so, it did appreciable damage and caused the deaths of two men.

Check out the impressive "high water mark" photos of Barrier Island Girl, our own answer to Dorothea Lange.

A five foot water surge with pounding waves eroded an estimated 70,000 cubic yards of beach sand. That's a mere fraction compared with Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but it isn't yet known if a calmer Gulf will bring it back. Jacksonville coastal engineer Al Browder told the PNJ "if the sand remains in less than 13 feet of water, it likely will come back to shore."

"As long the sand isn't pulled past the primary sandbar, it can return to the shore," Browder said. "That's the island's natural process. But it takes time for the beach to recover."

Tragically, one man drowned and another died after being rescued from the rip currents left in Ike's wake. Both apparently got in trouble when they tried to rescue other swimmers.
Two men died after incidents near Fort Pickens gate on Sunday after being pulled from turbulent rip currents in the Gulf. At least 15 others were rescued across Pensacola Beach on a day that saw yellow flags and 2- to 3-foot waves.

The first death occurred after a man caught in a rip current was pulled from the water about 4:30 p.m., said head life guard Dave Greenwood.

The 40-year-old man appeared to be fine after the rescue and was walking and responding normally, said Bob West, director of Public Safety for Santa Rosa Island Authority.

The drowning victim was a "Brother Gomez," part of a local Jehovah's Witness group who came to the beach after Sunday services. Gomez entered the water to aid others who were yelling for help. "Escambia County Fire Rescue personnel on Waverunners found the 53-year-old man in the water after about 20 minutes of searching... ."

Both victims were swimming at Fort Pickens Gate, which the Island Authority has left without lifeguards since the end of the summer season.

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