Hurricane Hermine damaged many marinas and public ramps that dot Florida’s shallow west coast between Homosassa and the Big Bend. Like many Labor Day storms of decades past, Hermine intensified as it approached the coast. Most of the resulting damage was due to tidal surge rather than wind. For nearly 24 hours, the Coast Guard restricted vessel movement with the issuance of Port Condition Zulu along the coast until the 80-mph winds had passed.
The brunt of Hermine was felt on the southern and eastern sides of the storm, which pushed debris inland, eroded waterfront roads, filled marina ships’ stores with water, and decimated inventory. From a recovery standpoint, most marinas were able to limp back to business within a few days, although the normally busy Labor Day weekend was reserved for front loaders and trash trucks—not cruisers and anglers. The worst of the storm damage occurred in Horseshoe Beach located in Dixie County, where a 12-foot tidal surge destroyed the well-known Shrimp Boat Restaurant. Furthermore, Steinhatchee-based marinas all reported surge-related damage, including the municipal docks at the public ramp that were twisted upward by the surge and severely damaged.
At River Haven Marina, a nine-foot storm surge pushed mud, water and debris inside the ships’ store but didn’t cause any permanent damage to the floating wooden and steel docks. Despite inventory losses, the marina was back up and operating within a week of the storm’s passing. At the nearby Sea Hag Marina (Marker 47) the floating wet slips had plank damage yet remained intact. Storm surge lifted several boats from bottom racks and pushed them inland, where they settled on the hard. Before the storm hit, Sea Hag was nearly finished with construction of a new steel building intended to provide covered dry storage for 100 vessels up to 38 feet in length. The building was designed to handle hurricanes and easily handled the 80-mph winds.
Cedar Key sustained heavy structural damage to waterfront motels, cottages and the city marina. Cedar Key Marina II, its phone lines out, took to Facebook to post: “There was a lot of water damage, no boats that are stored at the marina were damaged, but operations took a major hit. Right now we are trying to recover and pick up the pieces that were spread across the marina floor. Please give us time to get back on our feet, so we can best serve you and make your boating/fishing experience as pleasurable as possible.”
Crystal River, known for its manatees and diving, also reported flood damage. Several vessels were ripped from moorings and tossed up onto shorelines or carried inland by the storm surge. “At one point we had about three feet of water in the middle of U.S. 19 in downtown Crystal River,” says Commander Buddy Grant of the Citrus County Sheriff’s office. Twin Rivers Marina at the mouth of Crystal River was without power for several days. The ships’ store was heavily damaged by flooding, but the marina docks themselves held up reasonably well even though they were underwater for hours. Resilient and laid back, all of the marina operators expect to have repairs completed by winter in time for the annual return of northern visitors.
By Alan Wendt, Southern Boating Magazine November 2016