In the wake of a major weather event like Hurricane Sally, there is always much to be grateful for and much that’s frustrating. In the days after the storm, we heard from grateful readers whose neighbors stepped up to help out. We saw people step up to take care of strangers. We witnessed first responders and county workers doing everything they could to protect the public and help them in dire circumstances.
We also collectively shook our heads at the apparent lack of planning shown by Skanska USA, the company building the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, as well as any others that may have lost track of a barge or two during the hurricane.
That apparent oversight has cost individuals, businesses and municipalities plenty and will continue to heavily tax this area. The barges, one of which held a crane, damaged, threatened or caused temporary closures of a number of key bridges in the area.
The Pensacola Bay Bridge actually had sections fall into the bay, destruction caused by equipment of the company tasked with building the bridge in the first place.
Company officials said that they didn’t have enough notice when the hurricane’s path changed and that, with the correct amount of warning, they could have secured the barges. We’re skeptical.
Sally’s path shifted east in steady increments in the days before landfall.
That was enough for officials in counties across the Panhandle, including those more than 50 miles from the storm’s final landfall, to prepare for the possibility. Many residents that were outside of the cone of probability early last week still made preparations for a potential impact.
Hurricanes and other tropical weather events are not known for their ability to commit. They arrive when and where they choose and anyone with experience along the coastline knows better than to count on a predicted path as the ultimate path.
This is not the first time Skanska has failed to meet expectations. Through investigative reporting last year, we found that sections of the bridge had sustained thousands of cracks when initially poured, leading to Florida Department of Transportation withholding payments and requiring sections to be redone.
In this case, Skanska failed to prepare for the worst-case scenario, a costly mistake.
The Navarre Press asked Skanska how much time it would have taken to move their barges out of harm’s way but did not receive a response.
That’s a question that needs to be answered, along with a number of others.
We take our bridges for granted until they’re not available.
The damage to the bridge connecting Gulf Breeze to Pensacola will cost money, time and possibly loss of life due to slowed emergency response over the coming months.
Who will pay for that?
That question is at the top of our list.