JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. — Though many of Georgia’s coastal communities took a harder hit during Hurricane Matthew last year, officials assessing the damage of Tropical Storm Irma say it carved a devastating path across Jekyll Island.
The Florida Times-Union reports that Irma blew past last October’s Hurricane Matthew, knocking down more trees, ripping away protecting dunes and cutting off the northern part of the island at high tide.
Irma took out 400 trees on the golf courses alone — 100 more than Matthew — destroyed six of 18 beach crossovers and caused seven water main breaks. Chief Operating Officer Noel Jensen gave that assessment at a recent board meeting of the Jekyll Island Authority.
Matthew broke no water mains, and he blamed the breaks from Irma on shifting winds, first from a nor’easter and then from Irma, that took down trees that ruptured the lines as they fell.
Jekyll Island, which is a state park, was under a boil water advisory for days, Jensen said.
The island had about 24 hours of winds of 40 mph or higher and a couple of hurricane force gusts, Conservation Director Ben Carswell said.
Over a span of 8½ hours, there wasn’t a single five-minute period when the island did not experience tropical storm force winds, Carswell said.
The island also had a six-foot storm surge on the ocean side and four feet on the marsh side, he said.
That surge caused a breach in the dunes that separated Driftwood Beach from the northern tip of the island. The worst beach erosion was at the new Cottages at Jekyll Island, Carswell told the Times-Union.
Jensen said that it seems useless to rebuild a beach crossover off Gould Street that was wiped out again after it was repaired from Matthew. He said the crossover was replaced or rebuilt five or six times prior.
He also said that the eight-foot wide crossover at the beach village now comes about three feet short of reaching the sand.
On a positive note, more than half of the 13 tennis courts have reopened, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is again operating normally, Jensen said. During Irma, the sea turtles and other animals from the center were evacuated to the Tennessee State Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com