A procession of trucks rumbled into Fort Lauderdale on Monday, bringing the first deliveries of new sand to a beach washed away five months ago by Hurricane Sandy.
About 100 trucks a day are expected for the next month or so to deliver sand hauled from a mine west of Lake Okeechobee. Directed by workers in orange vests, the trucks lined up Monday on State Road A1A and waited their turn to dump their loads onto the beach.
The $1.5 million beach restoration work, being done by Eastman Aggregate Enterprises of Lake Worth, will bring 22,500 cubic yards of sand to Fort Lauderdale. The work is expected to widen the beach by 30 to 35 feet.
The heavy truck traffic hasn't caused any problems so far, said Eric Myers, Broward County's beach erosion administrator.
"It's obviously a minor inconvenience but it's all working toward the end of getting sand put back on the beach," he said.
The work area, which stretches from Northeast 14th Court to Northeast 18th Street, was roped off on the beach side, although the road remained open to vehicles and pedestrians.
After the trucks dumped the sand, a front-end loader and a back-end loader went to work on it, spreading it around the beach.
Within earshot of the clanging and growling of the trucks and earth-moving equipment, Pete Bates-Krakoff and a few family members and friends reclined on the sand and smiled the smiles of people just happy to be out of New Brunswick, N.J. Although they had heard about the erosion from the storm, they didn't consider canceling their vacation plans.
"We've been coming to Fort Lauderdale for 30 years," he said. "It's too much of a tradition."
Rocco Contessa, the boyfriend of one of his daughters, added: "It's snowing in New Jersey. It's 90 degrees here, and a few trucks aren't so bad."
Part-time resident Mark Leonardo stood with his wife, Teri Danisi Leonardo, and watched the trucks dump the sand onto the beach. He said he was glad to see the restoration, although he thought more could have been done to prevent so much damage to the region's major economic and environmental asset.
"The beach is what people come to see," he said. "You have to have a pristine beach."
Although Hurricane Sandy remained far out to sea when it passed South Florida, the storm came close enough to generate huge waves that caused the worst beach erosion in years. Particularly hard hit was the section of Fort Lauderdale north of Sunrise Boulevard, and a few weeks later, after more heavy weather, a four-block section of State Road A1A collapsed.
The road repair work came first, with workers pounded steel sheets 45 feet into the ground to support the beach side of the road. With that work done, the sand deliveries could begin.
The fresh sand comes from the Ortona mine west of Lake Okeechobee that scoops up buried sand from ancient beaches, laid down when the sea level was higher and the Florida coastline farther inland.
"We're putting 100 or so trucks on the road but it seems that's being absorbed fairly gently," Myers said.
A larger restoration project, planned years ago and covering the coast from northern Fort Lauderdale to southern Pompano Beach, is expected to begin late this year and take two years to complete.
The current work is scheduled to run Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Myers said the only problem so far was that some people had come into the work area, which can be dangerous. He said everyone should stay clear of that stretch of beach until the work was done.
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