CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Tourists and residents say they found hundreds of feet of Clearwater Beach submerged in water all the way up to the Beach Walk sidewalk Friday as whipping winds and strong waves stirred up the Gulf of Mexico.
The conditions were so dangerous that lifeguards on Clearwater Beach put up red no swimming flags and closed Pier 60.
“It’s like a blizzard but with sand!” Lisa George exclaimed while pulling her sweatshirt hood tight around her face.
“It feels like you’re actually being smacked by the wind!” Erica Dusseldorp said as she swayed to her right hand side in the heavy gusts.
The wind was so strong Friday that it swept 10-year-old Brooklyn Knapp off her feet.
“I fell over a couple times,” she said with a chuckle.
City crews rushed to hook up and haul off lifeguard stands away from the crashing waves.
At one point during high tide, water covered the entire stretch of beach and flooded the popular “Beach Walk” pathway that runs alongside the beach.
“It’s crazy! We’re from New Hampshire and we’ve never seen anything like this before,” Kris Thibault yelped.
The weather drove away customers from Frenchy's and Palm Pavilion Restaurants Friday as well. “When you lose business to the weather there’s nothing you can do,” said owner and Clearwater City Council Member Hoyt Hamilton.
City crews are concerned about erosion, but they won't be able to tally up the damage until winds and rain die down.
“Mother nature she does what she wants to do and we just have to make the best of the situation,” Hamilton added.
“We won't let it ruin our fun! We’re in Florida for Christmas so we had to come to the beach. Why not, right?” Jenn Potter said with a laugh.
City leaders hope to reopen Pier 60 on Saturday.