Debby downer: Collier, Lee beaches erode in spots from choppy Gulf waves

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Kevin Shope, of Naples, walks where high tides eroded parts of the Naples beachfront as Tropical Storm Debby passes over Florida on Tuesday June 26, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Kevin Shope, of Naples, walks where high tides eroded parts of the Naples beachfront as Tropical Storm Debby passes over Florida on Tuesday June 26, 2012.

— Tropical Storm Debby knocked out power, spawned tornadoes and dumped torrential rains on Southwest Florida, but it's what she took with her that could be troubling to beachgoers.

Officials in both Collier and Lee counties said Tuesday the weekend's stormy conditions took a toll on the area's beaches. Officials said, however, it's too early to tell whether the storm damage will have a lasting effect on the area's beaches.

Gary McAlpin, Collier County's coastal zone management director, said some parts of Collier's beach appeared to have lost sand, while other locations fared better than expected.

McAlpin said he can't be sure whether the storm caused significant erosion until the Gulf of Mexico calms down and county staff members can get out and survey the beach.

"It's too early to tell," he said. "We won't know until the Gulf settles down."

Still, officials said it was clear that some spots — particularly narrow areas already targeted for future beach renourishment projects — were hit harder than others.

"It's a little bit hard for me to judge, but the water has been up to the dunes," Naples City Manager Bill Moss said. "It's been noticeably higher than we've seen for a while."

Moss said he wouldn't be surprised if the city's hot spots — like near the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club or in the Park Shore neighborhood — see erosion when the water calms down.

Jason Parsons, the hotel's general manager, said they're already experiencing sand loss. The water was up to the beach-side bar's steps and "there was no beach" on Monday. The water receded a bit Tuesday, but Parsons said the beach still wasn't as wide as normal.

"(The beach) gets smaller every time we get a storm like this," Parsons said. "I'm sure this is going to shrink the beach in size."

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Naples Beach Patrol and Naples Police officers stood guard along where the Naples Pier was closed on Tuesday afternoon due to high winds.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Naples Beach Patrol and Naples Police officers stood guard along where the Naples Pier was closed on Tuesday afternoon due to high winds.

Lee County experienced similar beach shrinkage this week.

Steve Boutelle, operations manager for Lee County's natural resources department, said it looked like beach renourishment projects at the northern end of Bonita Beach and Lovers Key State Park lost sand. But, much like Collier officials, Boutelle said it's too soon to tell how much sand was actually lost.

"At this point, it's a little too early to tell how the beaches are going to hold up," he said.

It's not just the beaches that took a hit along the coast. Naples officials shut down a portion of the Naples Pier both Monday and Tuesday because of severe weather.

Roger Jacobsen, the city's harbor master, said the city shut down a portion of the pier Tuesday after noticing waves breaking over it. The closure was expected to last several hours.

Tuesday's closure marked the third time in about four years the pier needed to be closed because of inclement weather, Jacobsen said. The city closed the popular attraction for about six hours Monday.

The worst of Debby's weather could be over for Southwest Florida now. NBC-2 meteorologists predict the winds will wind down Wednesday and Thursday, and the chance of rain will be about 30 percent. The chance of rain jumps to 70 percent Friday, according to NBC-2 meteorologists.

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