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Weekend storm causes ‘significant damage’ at Pinellas beaches

The unexpected storm caused "significant" damage to some of the sand dunes that had been replenished after Hurricane Idalia washed away five feet of sand in some places.

Pinellas County has spent about $30 million on beach restoration, including rebuilding sand dunes to protect against storm surge.

Hurricane Idalia washed away about five feet of sand from the beaches, leaving coastal residents vulnerable to storm surges.

Since the late August storm, Pinellas officials have worked to build up sand dunes from Pass-a-Grille Beach to Belleair Beach — about a 35 mile stretch.

But a large winter storm passed through the county over the weekend, causing damage to some of the dunes that were replenished after Idalia.

And that's a big problem for an area that brings in billions of dollars each year for tourism.

"The dunes did their job to a great extent, they did offer significant protection against the storm surge," Pinellas County spokesman Tony Fabrizio said. "Unfortunately, it was pretty severe. Some people experienced more damage along the coast than they did for Idalia."

Many of the areas impacted by the weekend storm had just gone through renourishment, like Indian Rocks Beach.

When the sand dunes were set, the hope was that plants would root into it and make it more stable.

"We didn't expect to see a storm like this in December, but it did happen. And unfortunately, it happened before the the vegetation really had an opportunity to take take root and really hold a lot of that sand in place," Fabrizio said.