ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer
Seen right after the height of the storm, Sandy’s tides lifted the section of boardwalk south of Fourth Street off its foundation, overturning benches and skewing light poles.PHOTO COURTESY ROB KORB(Nov. 9, 2012) Half the glamour, twice the damage.
As the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy winds down – at least on the municipal front – it is clear that the resort’s western bayside took the brunt of the hit.
“The major damage that we got from a public facilities standpoint would be the boardwalk on Chicago Avenue,” said City Engineer Terry McGean. “In this case, it lifted up and shifted four or five feet, broke apart the railing and washed it out [into the bay].”
“All of the lights are either leaning significantly or have fallen over. It’s basically going to have to be completely redone.”
Running south along the bay from Fourth Street, the boarded promenade on Chicago Avenue provides a popular space for fishing, crabbing, and casual sightseeing. It continues for roughly three blocks, snaking behind the Delmarva Power substation on 2nd Street and ending at De Lazy Lizard Bar & Grill.
Despite the damage, the city plans to rebuild the promenade on Chicago Avenue, as part of future hopes for a larger park between Third and Fourth Streets, as well as a longer boardwalk stretching along the bay to the inlet.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPESOcean City Parks and Recreation Director Tom Shuster said that Absolute Demolition will be removing the wreckage from the site and that plans to rebuild are already in the works.
“We’ll be working with Terry to come up with a design and bid specification for the rebuild of the entire walk in that location,” Shuster said. “They’ll need to do an inspection of the bulkhead that’s there for safety… but it’s our intention to replace it completely.”
While the island’s oceanside is typically associated with a greater risk of weather damage, this usually assumes that high winds and rough surf from the ocean will be the causet of destruction, as was seen in Hurricane Gloria, the city’s last major weather event in 1985 ,that essentially destroyed the Boardwalk
Sandy was a different storm, however. While she brought little in the way of wind, Sandy combined with the lunar cycle and already existing low-pressure systems to create a remarkably high tide. Given that the town drains towards the bay, it was that side that saw tidal surges flowing back up out of the storm drains and flooding the streets before Sandy’s rainy weather had even hit.
“[The bayside] definitely took the worst. The island basically slopes from east to west, so the lowest portion is actually the bayside,” McGean said.
The chance to rebuild the bayside walk, however, may provide an opportunity to review the future of the city’s two blocks of public space between Third and Fourth Streets west of Philadelphia Avenue, which currently house sports fields and the Ocean Bowl skate park.
Shuster said the area “has an underlying master plan for redevelopment” that would see a more unified, full-featured park built.
“We’ll look at that western end of the park plan and make sure that any plan [to rebuild the boardwalk] would be consistent with the final concept of how we want the park to look,” Shuster said.
The current stretch of boardwalk, Shuster said, “is intended to be one of the legs of the Bayside Boardwalk — the long term hope to have a boardwalk along the bayside down possibly to the inlet.”
“The park plan includes the boardwalk and the pathway leading into the park,” Shuster added, “but it also includes removing the street between Third and Fourth to make that more of a promenade and less of a through area.”
Private property was also not immune to the tide’s ability to float otherwise-secure structures. While McGean is responsible for the integrity of public property, the city’s building inspectors have also been out examining private structures.
“I look at all the public facilities, and Kevin [Chief Building Inspector Kevin Brown] and the inspectors look at all the private facilities,” McGean said.
“I think there might’ve been two [private buildings] that were posted ‘no occupancy.’ In both cases, I know it was an issue where a mobile home had lifted off its foundation.”
What still has a solid foundation, according to McGean, is the city’s sea wall and dune system, which were largely responsible for the lack of serious damage on the Boardwalk and oceanfront. The Army Corps of Engineers have finished surveying the coastline and McGean said they “found no damage.”
“I know there is a dune that needs to be rebuilt,” McGean added, “but whether we’re just talking about trucking sand from one place to another or pumping it has yet to be determined.”
The Army Corps of Engineers works with the city to maintain the strength of the beaches, including the Corps’ 1991 construction of the sea wall along the Boardwalk. The city, county, and federal government all contribute money to a fund that allows for the Corps to periodically fortify the beaches by dredging sand from the ocean back up onto the beach. The next scheduled replenishment is in 2014.
Even the portion of the Boardwalk currently under reconstruction, around North Division Street, took no discernible damage from the storm, despite being partially dismantled when the waters started to rise.
“There was no damage to any of the work that was in progress, nothing where we had to go back and fix anything that we’d already done,” McGean said. “We basically just lost two days of work. We were back out working on Wednesday.”
Mayor Rick Meehan noted later this week that he was impressed with the protection the strengthed beachline afforded the resort, compared to his experience in Gloria.
“We had major damage during one, and none during the other,” Meehan said. “I think this is a great example of how beach replenishment really works.”
“It’s the investment in the infrastructure that protected that Boardwalk,” said City Manager David Recor, who said he was impressed with the city’s resilience relative to other coastal areas in which he’s worked. “There’s a reason we survived the way we did.”