By Faith Ross
Luck was with Amelia Island again as the predicted heavier winds and heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ian did not materialize. However, flooding, once again, pummeled downtown Fernandina. Tropical storm force winds pushed the Amelia River waters into the marina, the rail lines and local businesses.
One of the easiest methods of documenting flooding is to locate the wrack lines from flood waters. For newbies to the island, a wrack line is organic material (such as seagrass) and other debris that is left behind at high tide. It is often seen at the beach, but could easily be seen Friday morning in front of the Salty Pelican. Following the downtown’s wrack line of debris from the river’s flooding on Friday morning was very revealing.
At the south end of the city’s new seawall, the wrack revealed that the waters came in heavily around the south end of the wall. Due to a north wind, the flood waters flowed heavily into the adjacent wetlands and over the road to David Cook’s property and into the rail car staging area next to Rayonier.
Though some may be skeptical of a seawall, there was no wrack or wrack line behind the city’s newly constructed seawall. As a result of the seawall and the grasses, the parking lots behind the wall received no flooding and no damage. The metal gates sealed the wall’s openings, and the grasses that took a beating from the wave action looked no worse for wear.
At the north end of the seawall (just north of Atlantic Seafood) the boat ramp, Atlantic Seafood, the marina guest facilities building and part of Ash Street flooded. The boat ramp literally ceased to exist. The wrack line covered the sidewalk and rail tracks in front of the hotel at Ash and the train depot at Centre Street. Then it wandered down Centre Street, a third of the way between Second and Front Street. At one point Brett’s became an island as the tracks behind it were flooded.
Many of us know that Front Street floods in a very high tide, so there was no surprise in finding heavy, deep wrack material on Front Street. Its depth required the use of a city front-end loader to remove the deep blanket of brown plant debris.
As a marina worker pushed the flood waters out of the marina’s flooded guest services area (which houses the marina’s restrooms and showers), one has to ask how many times the marina’s buildings can be cleaned and repaired after flooding before they fall apart? How many more times can the Atlantic Seafood be submerged and be hygienically safe for food sales? How high does the water need to get to submerge the unprotected Salty Pelican, the Palace Saloon, the Decantery, the jewelry shop, the historic train depot, the fudge and ice cream store? How high does the water need to be to flood City Hall up Ash on Second Street? More importantly, where does city government go when its offices flood? The island only experienced tropical force winds with Ian, what will the next hurricane bring?