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Florida Sands Fade as Tourist Season Opens

November 10, 2001|From Associated Press

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Weeks of wind and pounding surf have chewed away at Florida's world-famous beaches in some of the worst erosion in a generation, leaving some sunbathers with a pathetically narrow strip of sand on which to spread a towel.

"For a couple of blocks it's almost like there's no beach," said ophthalmologist Russ Wolfe, who often jogs along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. "It is really narrow. It looks like the water is right there."

Experts say much of the sand will return in the spring and summer, as it usually does. But the erosion this year is so extreme, some communities may have to dredge sand offshore to replenish their beaches.

In the meantime, the tourism industry, already reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is worrying. The sand loss comes at the start of the winter season, when tourists flock to Florida.

"We're going to see the complaints as we get into the season and the snowbirds make their way down to Florida," said Mike Grimme.

He said about 30% of the sand has washed away from the three beachfront hotels he owns in Fort Lauderdale.

The sand used to stretch more than 150 feet in front of New York and Sheridan streets along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, a 2 1/2-mile promenade lined with gift shops and cafes. Now there is only 15 to 25 feet of beach in some spots at high tide.

The combination of high tides, northeasterly winds and sharp waves has caused more erosion than some major hurricanes have, said Stephen Leatherman, a coastal geologist at Florida International University.

"I haven't seen that much erosion in 20 years," he said.

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