Storm Damage Update for Gulf Islands and Assateague Island National Seashores

Flooded facilities on beach.

A flooded campsite at Assateague National Seashore. NPS photo.

The coastal storm dubbed Ida may have been a late bloomer, but the November storm left a mess at several parks from the Gulf Coast to the mid-Atlantic. Here's an update on the status of two parks: Gulf Islands National Seashore and Assateague Island National Seashore.

At Gulf Islands National Seashore (Mississippi and Florida), two key roads will reopen today, but another will be closed for several weeks. A map is available on the park website to help you locate the areas described below.

The J. Earle Bowden Way (the National Seashore road connecting Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach) and Perdido Key Road were scheduled to reopen to vehicular traffic at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, November 20.

Bicyclists will need to wait a bit to use one of these routes. The park advises,

Visitors need to be aware that there is some damage on J. Earle Bowden Way, primarily on the north side of the roadway, which will be addressed later. For safety purposes, bike lanes and shoulders will be closed as designated.

Park Superintendent Jerry Eubanks said, “While we feel we can safely allow vehicular traffic now, there are drops offs and damage to the bike lane on J. Earle Bowden Way which have been marked by cones and barrels. The Seashore is seeking emergency federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration for sand removal and to complete other necessary repairs. Some restriction to roadway travel will likely be necessary at a later date to accommodate the repair work.”

Shoulder damage did not occur on Perdido Key Road.

Fort Pickens Road will be closed for about four to six weeks. Sand removal from the road is expected to begin in about a week to ten days, but once underway, that work will take a month or more. The park expects to open Fort Pickens Road to vehicular traffic after the sand is removed, with repair work to the roadway to occur later.

Additional information about Gulf Islands National Seashore is available from the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center at 850-934-2600 or on the park website.

On the Atlantic Coast, at the border between Virginia and Maryland, Assateague Island National Seashore sustained significant beach erosion, overwash and damage to infrastructure when the remains of Tropical Storm Ida passed over the region last Friday. The three-day onslaught brought winds up to 80 mph and heavy rains caused extensive flooding and sand migration.

The park is listed as "open for visitation but some hazardous conditions and closures remain in effect" while condition assessments and repairs are underway. Superintendent Trish Kicklighter says opening public facilities is a priority, but asks, "for everyone’s safety, please adhere to all closures."

Old infrastructure and extensive debris are scattered heavily along the entire 37-mile length of beach. Much of what is now exposed has not been seen by employees with more than 20 years of experience here at the park.

A massive beach cleanup is underway as park staff and volunteers from the Assateague Mobile Sportsfishermen’s Association pick up more than 1500 tires torn from an artificial fishing reef located off the coast of Ocean City.

“We regret any inconvenience and we absolutely understand the desire to experience a barrier island after a storm. We ask for understanding and patience as we work to re-open areas as quickly as possible,” stated Superintendent Kicklighter.

If you aren't familiar with the area, the map available at this link will help you visualize the locations described in the following update.

On the Virginia side of the Seashore, where the majority of the area is within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, only very limited facilities are open. The Refuge is open only to the Herbert H. Bateman Center, which is located near the entrance to the area. The nearby (NPS) Toms Cove Visitor Center will reopen Saturday, November 21.

The Over Sand Vehicle zone in the Virginia district is closed until further notice. The park advises full recovery is expected to take months and will probably not occur until spring. If you need specific details, you may call 757-336-6122.

In the Maryland district of the park, the Barrier Island Visitor Center (located on the mainland) is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The National Seashore paved roads, nature trails and public beach parking areas are open, and the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) Zone is open on a limited basis.

Bayside campground is open with some restrictions, but Oceanside Drive-in and Oceanside Walk-in campgrounds are closed due to flooding. Backcountry camping is closed until further notice. Public hunting areas at the seashore are open with some restrictions. Additional details and updated information is available by calling 410-641-3030 or by checking the park website.