Originally created 09/23/99

Dennis, Floyd wash away



SAVANNAH -- They come and they go. It's the nature of coastal sand bars, spits and even barrier islands.

As if to prove the ethereal nature of the coast, hurricanes Dennis and Floyd combined to wipe away one of Georgia's coastal landmarks -- Pelican Spit. At one time, the spit was a 37-acre chunk of sand dunes just off Sea Island in Glynn County that provided important nesting and resting habitat for shore birds.

Now it's gone.

But overall, Georgia's coastline was spared from the more serious hurricane damage that is plaguing North Carolina, where whole sections of the Outer Banks washed away.

"Overall, it looked pretty good. I was surprised," said Brad Winn, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

After Hurricane Dennis earlier this month, Pelican Spit was worn down to just a couple of sand dunes above the lapping waves, Mr. Winn said. After Floyd last week, the sand dunes were gone, too, he said.

The island likely will build up again over time because the currents that delivered the sand to the spot are still at work. But no one can say for sure when that might happen, and redevelopment could be hindered by other storms.

On Tybee Island, the beach was lowered by about a foot, according to Bill Farmer, city manager. The beach community will try to get a combination of state and federal money to aid in storm-related beach renourishment, Mr. Farmer said.

DNR staff spent the weekend and Monday surveying the coastline for damage.

Some scattered, small areas of marsh suffered from saltwater over-wash, as the winds from Floyd pushed waves up higher than usual. If those patches are otherwise healthy, they should recover without problems, Mr. Winn said.

The biggest losers may be the birds that nested on Pelican Spit.

Historically, the small island supported colonies of nesting royal terns and black skimmers. But once it became a popular spot for visits from recreational boaters, the nesting numbers plummeted. This past summer, two pairs of American oyster catchers and a pair of clapper rails nested there.

The state set aside part of Pelican Spit as a critical bird habitat and prohibited people from walking through the nesting area. However, there was not enough time to judge how the effort was doing before the spit washed away, Mr. Winn said.