After 28 days, Padre Island National Seashore reopens

HARLINGEN — After nearly a month, the Padre Island National Seashore finally dug its way out from under the debris and damage left by Hurricane Hanna, reopening to visitors Thursday morning.

There are some limitations that park officials hope will be just temporary, however.

The two developed campgrounds at Malaquite and the Bird Island Basin remain closed, although primitive camping is available on North and South beaches and overnight parking has been resumed at the Bird Island Basin boat ramp.

Those two campgrounds were already undergoing construction before the hurricane hit, and will hopefully be open soon once it is finished.

The dock at Bird Island Boat ramp is being rebuilt and won’t be available to aid in launching until the work is finished, although the boat ramp is available for use.

“Because of the surge, the coastal flood, there was about a six-foot surge and every access point in the entire park was clogged up with debris,” Chuck Lassiter, chief of interpretation and education at PINS, said Thursday. “That’s the vehicle accesses, the pedestrian accesses, accesses to old oil and gas sites, et cetera, all of that had to be cleared out.

“We had structural damage, we had siding removed, roofing removed, we had boardwalks damaged,” he added. “We had a boat dock that sustained some damage and when we got to working on that we found that it had to be completely replaced.”

Like all coastal barrier islands, the national seashore is susceptible to being carved into new configurations by hurricanes, and Hanna was no exception.

The eye of Hanna came ashore across the southern part of the 70-mile-long national seashore, about 15 miles north of where it ends at the Port Mansfield Channel.

“The dune line, because of the coastal flooding, the dune line was cut way back so I would estimate the beach is almost twice as wide in places as it was prior to the hurricane,” Lassiter said.

“All of our comms and power of course were knocked down, like many other folks in the area were as well,” he added. “As far as the debris, we didn’t get the humongous housing debris that you saw with Hurricane Ike, large chunks of peoples’ porches and such. But we did get a crazy amount of light debris. Even now we have a lot of light plastics on the beach.”

Lassiter said park officials decided to bring in professionals to haul out much of the plastic residue Hanna left behind, contracting with a waste-disposal firm to come in and clear the debris.

“We’ve been pretty busy,” Lassiter said.