SURFSIDE BEACH — Children played in the high water as city workers used front-end loaders and dump trucks to pick up mounds of debris and brush that lined roads such as Bluewater Highway and Fort Velasco Boulevard on Tuesday.
Hurricane Nicholas hit the Texas Gulf Coast with more force than officials and residents had expected. Originally forecast to be a tropical storm with more wind than rain, residents had planned for moderate winds in the mid-30s but instead were greeted shortly before midnight with hurricane force winds and higher than anticipated storm surge.
“I had an elevated shed out at my house that has been there for 30 years, and it’s been through all the bad ones. It came down last night, so that shows you just how strong this storm was,” Surfside Beach resident and Surf Station owner Austin Campbell said. “One of my neighbors said he was getting wind speeds around 100 mph.”
Storm surge was estimated to be a foot or more higher than forecast. Water continued to fill ditches and yards across the village Tuesday, prompting some children to take advantage of new ways to play.
“We got crews out between 6:30 and 7 this morning, and they’ve been working on tree removal, and we’ve almost completed that,” Mayor Gregg Bisso said. “We have a hard checkpoint at the main intersection at the base of the bridge, and you have to be a resident to come in, mainly because we’re going to be without power and traffic lights for three days, so we want to limit the traffic out here.
“As soon as we get lights back up, we’ll open it back up, as long as everything is safe,” Bisso said.
The beach itself took a hard hit, with much of the work done to repair the dunes after damage from last year’s storms wiped away by storm surge.
“We were expecting just a tropical storm, and here we got hit with a Cat 1,” Bisso said. “With the surge, we were expecting four-foot surge and we probably got five or six in some areas.”
Campbell also noticed the higher-than-expected water after he found as much as 18 inches of water in his surf shop on Murex Street.
“This was the old fire station, so it’s one of the higher points in the area, so for me to get that much water in here, it was up really high,” he said. “We lost a few things, but for the most part it’s just working on drying everything out.”
Piles of damaged materials were set along each street in the village, and the collection of people’s damaged property is next on the mayor’s list of priorities.
“We’re going to start tomorrow on picking up residents’ debris that they collected from their yards and have moved over to the easement,” Bisso said. “My goal is to have everything picked up within two to two and a half weeks, but a lot of that will depend on weather and equipment.”