Clean up after Cristobal: Ship Island possibly closed weeks for storm damage repairs
The National Park Service says due to damage caused by Tropical Storm Cristobal, it could be weeks before ferry service to Ship Island can begin for the year.
According to The Advocate, Memorial Day to early August is the busiest time of year for the family that operates Ship Island Excursions.
And after already missing three months of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ship Island Excursions is in need of some good news.
That's exactly what Louis Skrmetta, one of the company's representatives, provided as he highlighted the positive side of the challenge Ship Island Excursions faces, saying, “The good news is the Gulf beach and the beach in front of Fort Massachusetts are in good shape. They weathered the storm very well.”
However, extensive repairs are still needed.
Brent Everitt, public affairs specialist for Gulf Islands National Seashore, said Cristobal caused more damage to the ferry landing dock than Hurricane Nate in 2017. During Nate, two sections of the dock were damaged, he said, while seven sections of the pier are missing and decking is damaged after Cristobol’s wind and waves on June 7.
The other barrier islands are now open but Ship Island remains closed and Everitt said it could take weeks before people can return.
“The closure is expected to last for some time due to the contracting process and lead-time for lumber supplies,” the NPS posted on social media Friday. “We are using every mechanism available to accelerate the process as best as possible.”
Everitt said the chief of facilities for the park went out to Ship Island to see if temporary repairs can be made. The NPS has some emergency powers to speed things up, he said, but he anticipates the repairs will take weeks.
“It is our top priority of the park at this point,” he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers will start work Monday on additional restoration of the island where the Camielle Cut that split the island in the 1969 hurricane was joined last year.
The month-long project will place about 300,000 cubic yards of sand along the north shoreline of Ship Island, near Fort Massachusetts.
Erosion has reduced the area between the fort and the sound to only a few feet in places, according to a press release, and this latest restoration project will help protect the fort.
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company will use heavy equipment to shape and direct the flow of sediment from the pipeline to that area of the island.
Despite the extensive repairs, Skrmetta remains positive that Ship Island Excursions' normal routine will be back in business soon. He said that in the past, after other storms caused damage, temporary repairs were performed to get the ferries back in operation quickly.
“We’re getting hundreds of inquiries a week,” he said, and they had 250 passengers booked for this first weekend that now have to be rebooked or refunded.
In the meantime, the company is offering dolphin cruises to stay in business.
Ship Island is one of the most popular attractions in South Mississippi and is one of the tourism offerings that lets the Coast compete with the beaches of Alabama and Florida, he said.
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