Porpoise Point monitors new barrier during latest nor'easter

Barrier built after last week's nor'easter conditions washed away part of road

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – As another nor’easter moved in Wednesday, St. Johns County officials kept an eye on the conditions and monitored a new barrier at Porpoise Point near Vilano Beach.

Around high tide Wednesday afternoon, the winds were whipping and water was moving closer to the shoreline. When looking out into the ocean, whitecaps could be seen. 

Wednesday's conditions were similar to those during last week's nor'easter. Last week, the county declared a local state of emergency because nor’easter conditions washed away about 100 feet of asphalt from Porpoise Point Drive. There were pieces of broken asphalt scattered along the shore.

“The last nor’easter really took away all the barrier that was out here, any of the protection,” said  Greg Caldwell, assistant director of Public Works for the county. “The water was just coming down the roadway. It was ripping up the roadway and impacting a lot of the area out here.”

As part of the emergency declaration, the county built a concrete and sand barrier last week at the end of the road to protect the infrastructure. 

"What we did last week really has set the stage for what we’re able to accomplish this week,” Caldwell explained. “We have a lot of structural integrity out here. We’re just hoping that we have to reinforce it over the next couple days, if anything.”

During high tide Wednesday afternoon, the waves were crashing into the new barrier, but only a few splashes made it over the top. The roadway behind the barrier stayed dry, which was exactly what the county was hoping for. 

The people who live in Porpoise Point were thankful. Glenn Nergard, who has lived on Porpoise Point since the 1970s, came out to see the windy conditions stir up the Atlantic Ocean and watch the high tide come into the area that he said has become almost unrecognizable. 

"It's the worst I've ever seen it," Nergard said. "I think it was all preventable, to some extent. I think we got here for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I wish they didn’t muck with it in the first place. But, like I said, it is what it is. Now we have to deal with it."

In recent years, there’s been beach erosion at Porpoise Point because of two hurricanes in a two-year time span. Some people who live on Porpoise Point told News4Jax the space that's now being swallowed by massive waves used to be dunes. They are hopeful to one day see their beach restored to what it used to be, but there is skepticism. 

"When we were kids, you could drive all the way around this entire point from one end of it to another. No more -- it's all gone. It is all underwater now," said Wallace Edge, a longtime St. Augustine resident. "(Five years from now), I see this entire thing underwater."

Throughout the Wednesday, county officials came out to monitor the barrier, which is stable but a short-term solution. County officials said the temporary barrier built last week was able to withstand Wednesday's nor'easter conditions, so they won’t have to do any reinforcing Wednesday night, but the next high tide, which will occur about 3 a.m. Thursday, could have an impact. County officials said they'll be back out first thing Thursday morning to evaluate the situation.

The county is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with long-term plans, including possible dredging.

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