A September to Remember

Author:  Unknown

Edited by Carolyn Leaman

Note:  This article was among quite a few that were found "in the box" when Carolyn Leaman volunteered to be Park Historian.  Bob Steib was not only Park Historian, but also North Beach Association Historian, in 2004 when the two hurricanes hit.  Bob played a major part at Ocean Resorts Operations Center which had been set up at the Recreation Center.

The article graphically conveys the situation at the time, but I do not know the author.  Should a reader be able to identify the writer, I would be glad to make a correction.    John Leaman, BOD President at that time, added to the expose and his writing begins with the paragraph that is not in italics.  

The month of September, 2004 was a catastrophic month for the state of Florida and for North Hutchinson Island. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne left devastation that will long be remembered in the history of Florida.  Plans were in place to handle disaster by the County and brochures available to all about Hurricane preparedness. However, the winds and damage of Frances left the Island in turmoil and littered with debris. The islands in the Intracoastal Waterway were peppered with aluminum siding, roofing, all types of building materials. Boats were left high and dry on the spoil islands and in the waterways. The splendor that was "our Island" left much to be desired. The trees were stripped of their foliage and everything looked brown. Thick foliage in the areas of our preserved lands barren and we were able to see parts of the Island never seen before.

Our dreams of a Scenic Highway A1A had to be put on hold. Never had we seen such destruction as we saw with Frances and then came Jeanne. She was worse than Frances ever thought of being. Not a section of the Island was left untouched. Roofs were gone, windows broken, walls caved in, trees turned over and even cars became ten pins for the wind to blow across parking lots. Nothing was sacred. Every home was treated on an even keel. Every condo was battered and drenched. Elevators were not working on buildings with quite a few floors. It was a nightmare and we suffered the lack of electricity, water, sewage, food, ice, and many other amenities that we all took for granted. Roads were flooded, filled with debris and sand. The ocean breached the dunes in some areas and did little damage in others.

The new cement power poles along AlA from the Radisson to the North Beach Bridge went over in both storms. We saw new bodies of water. Lake Radisson and Lake Cumberland were apparent for several weeks. The drainage ditch along the east west section of AlA from the Radisson to the Bridge became a quagmire. Some of this contributed to the instability of the power poles. The Island was sealed off to the residents because of downed power lines and these had to be removed before we were allowed back on the Island. The words "black mold" became new words in our vocabulary and with a feeling of doom for our homes if it was found. Homes had to be stripped inside and rebuilt before they could be inhabited again by humans. The dread mold was prevalent and feared. If your roof leaked and it soaked your carpeting, you were apt to have ceilings come down. Then the feared mold set in. Time was of the essence. You needed to be able to get in your home and open the windows to dry it out, providing you could enter your home or condo. Many of them had already been tagged by the County as uninhabitable, damaged; needing some repairs or no tags at all letting residents know that they were fortunate.

The Harbor Cove, tri-plexes, Fort Pierce Shores, the Galleon, the shops, Coral Cove, the Sands Lakeside, were damaged. The Aquinique, Barclay, Sands Ocean Side, Atrium I & II, Tiara Towers, North & South and Sea Palms damaged. Jackson Way, Hibiscus I & II, Ocean Pearl, Treasure Cove Dunes, Visions, Ocean Harbour South I & II, Ocean Harbour Villas, Alta Mira I & II, and Queens Cove, damaged. The Breakers Landing, Atlantic View, Seward and Seabreeze, Bryn Mawr, Ocean Harbour North and Ocean Harbour Towers damaged. Ocean Resorts had heavy damage and a fire. The highway was littered with debris which was trucked out of each development not once but two and three times. Most of the metals were trucked to the Airport for storage and proper disposition.



     Above, fire destruction at Ocean Resorts                 Above photo shows how things looked on the Island, once clean up started


By John Leaman,

Edited By Carolyn Leaman




The clean up was long and arduous.  Blue tarps were on many of the roofs that could be seen from the highway.  We looked like a city of blue roofs.  Many organizations provided support.  The Red Cross, churches, Salvation Army, FEMA and many others stand out the most.  We were determined and did not let this disaster stop our spirit or determination to be one of the most beautiful places on the Treasure Coast. This attitude is exemplified by a Christmas Card send by Ed & Phyllis Graham.  (Photo to right)

At Ocean Resorts, management and residents had done a fine job of removing all loose objects that could be picked up by the wind and re-deposited elsewhere.  They had also boarded up windows and doors for common area buildings.  These preparations prevented much damage, but as was later revealed, the additions to mobile homes could not withstand the assault.

Tom McMaster was the first person back into Ocean Resorts.  He was able to do some damage assessment and take some photos.  He relayed this information to the Board President, who was in North Carolina at the time.  In turn the President set up Email groups and relayed information to unit owners as best he could.  He was able to make timely phone contact to deliver the bad news to the five owners whose units burned down.

Once the Manager was permitted back into the park he was joined by Maintenance personnel, Board members, and a few residents.  An operations center was immediately set up in the Rec Hall which had little damage except for some roof shingles.  There was phone service here.  It was manned continuously by resident, Bob Steib, to try to answer the many questions arising from owners.  The first priority went to safety and security.  The "in gate" was totally blocked with debris and a nearby resident kept an eye on the "out gate" which could be used for entrance.   All roads were full of debris, including nails and screws.  Shovels were used to clear reasonable paths through the mess.  Even then flat tires were commonplace.  Although there was no electricity or water at the time, their delivery capability to each unit had to be terminated until there was assurance of no short circuits or water leaks when service would be restored.  Generators were used in a few critical spots, but this was very limited.  Outside support with motorized equipment was hired to remove the worst of the debris.  The rubbish was essentially cleaned up before the second hurricane hit.  It was most fortunate that this had been done or the damage from the second hurricane would have been much worse.   The people at Ocean Resorts were without relief help for the first 4 days because some delivery person had erroneously reported back to the Red Cross/FEMA distribution point that the island was closed.  When this obstacle was overcome Ocean Resorts was showered with more drinking water, ice, and food than anyone could use.

During the first hurricane, no mobile homes were destroyed.  All destruction was to porches, room additions, and roof shingles.  Unfortunately many were opened up to the elements so that when the second hurricane hit, those that had been opened up were then destroyed along with their contents.  This was most unfortunate because much effort had been expended after the first hurricane to move people's belongings away from the damaged areas back into the remaining solid structures.  Units close to Ocean Harbor North were pelted with pebbles from the condominium roofs and received some glass and siding damage.  Also, debris from their destroyed garage which had been just north of O.R. tennis courts caused considerable court damage to the court surface, fencing, lighting and pavilion.  Condominium management was subsequently notified that the initial occurrence could be deemed an act of God, but failure to correct the causative weakness couldn't be.  Most people along the Indian River Lagoon received considerable dock damage and had water under their houses because the lagoon rose more than three feet.  Fortunately the ocean surges from both hurricanes hit during low tides or matters could have been much worse.  There were water trickles across A1A in several places but no major surges.



All told about 7,000 cubic yards of debris were hauled out of O.R., not counting that resulting from destroyed residual units being removed by the owners.  Handling this was a real issue.  FEMA immediately provided money to the County to handle debris removal, but the county's  first position was that they would provide no support to gated communities.  This was subsequently changed to if it was put outside the gates along a roadway they would haul it away.  Communications with our Congressmen helped convince county officials to be fair with their policies.  In our case we already had the debris removed and it would have made little sense to pick it up in mass only to dump it along A1A.  At least there were no dumping charges for our debris and the county policies may be fair should there be another such situation.


O.R.'s common area facilities, except for the boardwalk held up rather well.  The roofs of the comfort stations, post office, Rec Hall and pavilion all received roof damage that could be repaired without total roof replacement. The main office building and tennis pavilion needed new roofs.  Also the main office building had internal water damage and some mold issues that required considerable remedial action.  All bulletin boards and chain link fences had considerable damage and the east end of the board walk was decimated.  There were also downed and severely damaged trees.  Fortunately, since most repair work, except the main office building, was done by the maintenance staff and volunteers, insurance proceeds more than covered the out of pocket repair costs.  Debris removal and lift station pumping expenses were not insured or insurable.


Charlie House, our group email webmaster, entered the park and took hundreds of photos of homes at O.R. and posted them on line so residents could see for themselves the damage to their park and homes.  Another selfless act greatly appreciated by home owners at Ocean Resorts.

Many lessons were learned during the hurricanes and remedial actions taken.  Backup power is now immediately available to sustain the main offices, the Rec Hall, and lift stations.  Hurricane preparations check lists are in place for each function.  There was also liaison with the county so that they now have back up power provisions for their lift station that serves O.R.  It is hoped that these provisions never need to be used for the real thing.