Debby causes docks, seawalls to collapse - FOX 13 News

Debby causes docks, seawalls to collapse

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The losses of seawalls and docks to Tropical Storm Debby will probably never be documented. That's because even though both are expensive, neither is a matter of life or safety, nor are they insurable. 

But that doesn't make the cost of repairing them negligible, and that's something many Pinellas property owners are going to have to deal with.

"It'll be a $12,000 job" Ron Caffrey said.

Caffrey didn't even lose his seawall—his neighbor did, and Caffrey's backyard started slipping into the breach. 

"Because we had two more days of heavy seas and it did erode more, we were worried that it was going to move all the way up to the foundation of the house. But fortunately, it stopped," Caffrey said. 

To protect his own property, he will have a mostly-buried seawall installed vertical to his seawall, to isolate the problem next door. 

The owner of that house on the open waters of Tampa Bay was not home to make a comment, but the damage is clear: the seawall, a concrete deck and half of the backyard is gone, leaving a spa dangling in mid-air and the integrity of the swimming pool compromised.

Marine engineer Reuben Clarson predicts more seawalls will collapse over the coming weeks and months as salt water gets to the steel and rusts it.

"The steel starts swelling up and that causes a lot of the cracks," he explained. "A lot of them are probably damaged that we probably won't see the results for awhile, but they're damaged now." 

Those that have already "popped" probably did so from the inside-out, under pressures created by torrential rains. 

"The worst time on a seawall is really when the tide goes down, and you have all that hydrostatic wet ground behind the wall.  That's when they start buckling and bowing out, and blowing out," Clarson said.

Docks suffer a quicker demise:  most fell apart during days of unrelenting wave and wind forces. 

"It lasted three days and then on the fourth day, it just gave way," waterfront homeowner Billy Raymond recalled, as he took a short break from cleaning up debris. 

Raymond said he used an axe to spare his neighbor's dock a similar fate. 

"Other people's docks get underneath your dock, and that acts like a jack hammer," he explained. 

Contractors said the ballpark figure for replacing a dock is $40 per square foot.  Seawalls are generally $250 to $300 per linear foot, but can be much more expensive on open waters such as Tampa Bay because they are taller. 

One dock builder said his average replacement dock is checking in at about $15,000.  An 80-foot long seawall at $300 a foot would cost about $25,000.  Homeowners have to pay for those losses out-of-pocket.  Docks are optional.  Seawalls are not. 

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