Hurricane Matthew damage in Vero Beach could cost millions

The beaches are open in wind-whipped Indian River County, but parking in some areas remains difficult due to damage and debris piles. WPEC.

The beaches are open in wind-whipped Indian River County, but parking in some areas remains difficult due to damage and debris piles.

In Vero Beach at Jaycee Beach, Hurricane Matthew ate up the right side of Ocean Drive.

There were close to 100 parking spots along Ocean drive, until the high surf and storm surge from Hurricane Matthew drove into the coast here, crumpling the edge of the boardwalk and eating up the coastline for miles.

The rough surf here continues to chip away at what little beach is left.

A few blocks inland, it’s the wind not the water that took a toll on Vero Beach.

"It was a lot of work, a lot of dragging and cutting. I'm still not done,” said Tina Barrett, who evacuated and came home to a giant hole in the front yard.

Vero Beach Utilities says nearly 100-percent of their customers have power back, except for isolated area like off A1A where tree limbs sit on transformers.

"I feel blessed. I feel so blessed because the house is okay." Barrett said.

The island houses mostly are okay.

The beaches here are not.

Since President Obama declared this region a disaster area through a State of Emergency, funding through FEMA can be routed here to fix the beaches. Without that funding, the county floated ideas like a half penny sales tax to get the job done, saying they were out of local money to fund restoration to the beaches prior to the storm.

First in line for county and state-funded projects was a $3 million-plus renourishment of beaches along 2.2 miles of shoreline, near State Road 60 and Ocean Drive.

That stretch of beach was designated “the most economically important piece of sand in the county,” by commissioners.

It borders the Ocean Drive business district. The island's high-end hotels and restaurants are on these beaches.

The county's updated Beach Preservation Plan reports more than 1.9 million beach visits a year to this section pump approximately $33.1 million into the local economy.

But that left the narrow beaches at Jaycee Park, Sexton Plaza and Humiston Park--the most popular tourist attractions classified as critically eroded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection since 2008- unfunded.

Now with Hurricane Matthew chipping parts of roadway and the beach away, FEMA may deem the project as necessary and immediate.

The Vero Beach Facilities Management Division put up caution tape around several of the beach entrances on the boardwalk near Jaycee Beach Park here.

The boardwalk remains open to visitors, but most of the southern entrances onto the walkway are closed to due erosion caused by Hurricane Matthew that left portions of the parking area on the ocean side torn away by the high surf.

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