Skanska, the charter company to build the new $ 430 million Pensacola Bay Bridge, confirmed to News Journal on Tuesday that 22 of its sandals broke and drifted ashore during Hurricane Sally, colliding with sea walls, bridges and private piers.
Company officials said they have 55 boats in the bridge construction project, and 12 of the 22 boats ended up being privately owned during Hurricane Sally on September 16.
Since then, the company has only released public statements about the situation and has largely refused to answer specific questions from the press and the public.
Escampia County Director Janice Gelly said during a press conference on Tuesday that she believes the company or the Florida Department of Transportation should provide answers about the accident to the press.
“I definitely think the Department of Transportation and Skanska need to come into our community and answer these questions,” said Gilly. “That’s important. We all have those questions about this. We haven’t received a lot of responses from any of these entities.”
Skanska officials said a community liaison group contacted at least 10 families who had boats in their yards and were heading to the properties to make personal contact with those they had not yet reached. However, at least six of the 12 families who had boats on their property told the News Journal on Monday that they had not yet heard from the company.
“Each barge is a unique redemption process,” the company said in a statement. “We are working with engineers and marine recovery experts to determine how to safely remove each barge while minimizing further disruption for both the homeowner and their neighbors.”
The company said that determining how to pay for the damage should be done with its insurance company.
Company representatives will not comment on the details of the preparations they made – or failed to make – before Hurricane Sally beyond the original company statement.
“Skanska has made all appropriate preparations for the storm based on the information we had at the time,” the company said in a written statement. “The sudden shift in storm intensity, direction, and duration was unprecedented and totally unexpected by the entire Pensacola community. Unfortunately, it was neither safe nor feasible to attempt to remove barges and other equipment in the short period between the storm. The sudden intensification and its final fall.”
Sally becomes a tropical storm on September 12th in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the initial prediction from the National Hurricane Center was the Sally Center targeting the Louisiana-Mississippi border, Pensacola was included in the average expected error, known as the “uncertainty cone”.
Tropical Storm Watch was released for Pensacola at 4pm. On September 12th, a tropical storm warning was issued at 4 am. September 13. A tornado warning was issued for the region at 4 pm. September 14. Sally made landfall after 36 hours.
Skanska is building the bridge from a business yard in Bayou Chico, and has stored barges there in the past. Company officials refused to answer why they chose not to transport the barges a short distance to the work yard.
In addition to special damage, two barges collided with the Pensacola Bay Bridge. The bridge was closed on the morning of September 15 after a barge collided with the underside of the bridge. Early in the morning on September 16, a second battleship collided with the bridge, damaging at least four sections and the pillars below.
Local officials originally said it would take 30 to 60 days to make repairs, but they have since emphasized that the damage appears to be more significant.
Mike Iacovilla, a Skanska spokesperson, told the News Journal on Tuesday that the company has brought resources from across the country to Pensacola to help her recovery from Sally.
“We are aware that this is a major event that has our full attention, and we are dedicating the full resources of the company to address it,” said Iacovilla. “This includes bringing in resources and expertise from all over the country. We are fortunate to be able to mobilize these resources quickly.”
Iacovilla said Skanska, like many others in Pensacola, has employees who lost their homes and possessions in the storm.
“These boats,” said Iacovilla, “it is our responsibility to recover, and to do so as quickly and safely as possible.”
Skanska has not commented on the schedule for the repair of the bridge and has deferred all questions on the bridge to the Florida Department of Transportation.
FDOT said in a press release that at least four underwater docks were rotated as a result of barge collision causing the beams to shift, and one berth suffered from a crack that ran all the way underground.
“Management understands how important this facility is to society and is also working on developing the necessary repair plan to restore the bridge to a state that will last for decades to come,” the FDOT statement said.
FDOT said all barges will have to be removed from the bridge before it can complete the inspection. The management said that a full inspection of the bridge in good condition could take up to three weeks, adding that conditions are currently unfavorable.
The exact schedule for repairs will not be available until the bridge is fully examined, the statement said.
Senator Doug Brooksson told the News Journal on Tuesday that Florida is paying nearly $ 500 million for a bridge that is supposed to last 75 years, and that the damage from Hurricane Sally doesn’t change that.
Brooksson said: “The reason they did this accurate forensic analysis of all the areas that were bombed is because they expect that each part of this bridge will last 75 years.” “And there won’t be any cheap repairs. The repairs will be done to the standards they expect if they are under construction.”
State Representative Alex Andrade said the bridge is not yet state-owned; It belongs to Skanska during its creation.
“They are contracting with the state to deliver a secure bridge that is fully functional within the schedule specified in the contract,” Andrade said.
Andrade added that no decision had been made as to who would be responsible for the damage and whether it would be judged as “an act of God,” which may depend on whether appropriate protocols were followed when Sally approached Pensacola.
“My understanding is that they have taken boats in the past in response to the storms in the Gulf,” Andrade said. “So the question is what are their usual practices? Are they written down anywhere, and did they actually follow them? … Anyone can guess. Hindsight is exactly 20/20. But if inclement weather forces one of their pieces of equipment to destroy the bridge they were?” They build it, there is definitely a level of responsibility there. “
Meanwhile, thousands of commuters will be left sitting in traffic jams along the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87 as alternative routes.
County and city officials are in talks with the state about ferrying people between Pensacola, Golf Breeze and Pensacola Beach. If the ferry is constructed, it will likely carry only people, not cars.
“We are still building the infrastructure to support them, and I just asked for some patience as we worked through it,” said Robert Bender, Commissioner of Escambia County on Tuesday. “But know we are working through that. To get it out as soon as possible and help ease the traffic congestion at Garcon Point detour.”
The toll on the Garcon Point Bridge was officially raised until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, but both Broxson and Andrade said they fully expect the toll waiver to be extended before then as Governor Ron Desantes told officials at a meeting that the toll would be raised until Pensacola Bay Bridge was repaired.
“I expect this toll to continue to rise,” Andrade said. “I believe the governor’s statement on this,” he added.