Dozens of boats fell victim to Tropical Storm Irma and sank quietly to the bottom of the St. Marys River as rain and wind ravaged southeast Georgia.
City officials have counted nearly 40 boats that are partially submerged or sitting on the bottom of the river and the cleanup efforts continue but are expected to be both expensive and laborious.
Though Irma was a Tropical Storm by the time she reached St. Marys, Mayor John Morrissey said the damaged looked like the result of a larger storm.
“[It] took these 12x12, eight inch thick decks, concrete with Styrofoam underneath and just tossed them around like they were toy blocks,” he said.
Even the original ferry between St. Marys and Cumberland Island, The Cumberland Queen, was not spared. She sat beneath the river's surface before she was pulled out with a crane.
Many pieces of large equipment have moved into the area and are pulling boats from their watery graves, but the process is not quick.
“The ones up in marsh should go faster, the ones stuck on the bottom can take anywhere to a few hours," said Becky Myers, the Main Street Coordinator for the City of St. Marys said. Myers is coordinating the multiple agencies working on this project.
The Coast Guard handles the work in the water. Once a boat is transferred to land, it becomes city responsibility.
Once the boats are pulled from the river, they will be transported to a field near the St. Marys airport for owners to claim and assess for insurance.
The cleanup is expected to take weeks and will cost millions of dollars. Morrissey said that the city is monitoring and documenting all the activity for FEMA assistance.
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