Tropical Storm Nestor came and went with limited damage

In one of the least surprising effects of Saturday’s Tropical Storm Nestor, a section of Alligator Drive that frequently washes out when storms pummel the Gulf of Mexico did so once more.

Plus there was some scattered flooding along the river in downtown Apalachicola, but overall the storm spared the county.

About 1,100 feet of the Alligator Point roadway, which about six months ago was paved for $34,000 by the county, was inundated by the three to four foot storm surge, rendering it impassable, like so often happens.

A crew from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was able to get through on land to attend to a medical emergency, but the washout didn’t lead to any other emergencies, said Alligator Point resident Allan Feifer.

After forecasting it might take a couple days to enable the road to be used following the storm, an energetic county road crew took only a day to put it back into action with a clearing down to the lime rock bed.

“The asphalt is swimming with the fishes,” said Alan Pierce, the former county planner who now works as a point man on seeing the longstanding road project to completion.

County officials are hoping this washout is the road’s last, since the Federal Emergency Management Agency is putting through a final review a $4.7 plan that could out an end to the road washouts that are so frequent to that gulfside stretch of road.

Pierce said a scope of work by low bidder Anderson Columbia is now in the hands of FEMA officials.

“We have submitted it to FEMA, and FEMA has yet to respond,” he said “We keep waiting and waiting.”

The funding is complicated by the fact that the $4.7 cost is a combination of FEMA monies forthcoming from the Sept. 2016 Hurricane Hermine, about $3.2 million, and the Oct. 2018 Hurricane Michael, about $1.5 million, because both storms wreaked havoc on the roadway.

County officials continues to hope they could relocate the road inland, further distancing the vulnerable artery from storm surge, but that option has proved to be elusive, since it would call for purchasing about 20 lots and creating a 2,000-foot stretch of road.

“It (the plan) hasn’t been discarded but we can’t do it until we own all the property,” Pierce said. “FEMA only buys with voluntary acquisition, they don’t force condemnation.”

Commissioner Bert Boldt in recent weeks has offered to assist in working with one of the property owners to see if he could be persuaded, and his colleagues have advised him to feel free to talk with the property owner. But the process of acquiring the stretch of land all must conducted according to legal requirements, and no one is holding their breath the project will take an inland turn.

Instead, Pierce said, the plan is to pave the existing road, and create a vertical seawall with a concrete cap on either side to keep the asphalt in place.”

He said one possible sticking point is that Hermine money required a 25 percent cost share by the county, while Michael money requires the county pay 10 percent of the project cost.

“We have said we will make up the difference, just move forward,” Pierce said.

Storm surge in Apalachicola spared the utility system, although together with flood waters, it wreaked havoc on the city sewer vaults. “Crews worked hard to pump them out and get everybody back online as quickly as possible,” said City Manager Ron Nalley. “Overall the city seems to have fared well with just minor flooding and minor tree limb damage.”