Cocoa Beach: Cocoa Beach Pier Damaged In Storm.

(Image courtesy WKMG)

The Cocoa Beach Pier was damaged by high winds on August 3, 2017.

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Three people were injured Thursday when strong wind gusts damaged the roof of a bar at the Cocoa Beach Pier, fire officials said.

The incident was caused by a microburst of strong weather around 3:15 p.m., with winds recorded at 50-60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. A microburst is a sudden, powerful air current.
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Part of the roof and canopy at Pelican’s Bar and Grill was blown off, officials with the Cocoa Beach Fire Department said. Some wiring was exposed because of the damage.

“It came from nowhere. We were just chilling under the pier and some lightning bolts and everyone started to shelter under the pier and in a couple of minutes, sand started going everywhere, the umbrella started flying, everyone took shelter under the pier,” said Kevin Brongers, who was on the beach during the storm.

Three people with minor injuries were treated at the scene. Officials did not say what type of injuries people had.

The pier is expected to be closed until sometime next week.

As a both a tourist attraction and a eating destination for some locals, we certainly hope the Pier gets back up and running as soon as safely possible.

But the incident raises another question concerning the safety of the planned amusement park rides.

When the rides were proposed by Westgate, they assured the residents and the Board of Adjustments that the rides could be taken down in 2 hours and stored or removed from the site.

Yet on August 3rd, there was no 2 hour warning for this microburst.

The winds were suddenly there.

In August of 2013, a tornado ripped through Cocoa Beach. While there was a tornado warning in effect, there wasn’t a two hour notice for the warning.

In other words, it is likely that the rides would either still be up in the air or only partially disassembled during these types of weather events.

Description from the above video: Umbrellas flying. Somebody got hit by one, ambulance came.

If the umbrella vendors are caught out in these types of events, can anyone truly say that the amusement rides won’t be caught out as well? That people could be riding the rides when they come through?

Anyone want to see a horse from the carousel come crashing through their front doors or their car?

We said this when the amusement rides were being discussed: we are not against the rides, per se, but rather Westgate Resorts has not given enough details as to the construction, location, and engineering of the rides on location.

It’s just not there.

The assurances from the company on safety, locations, etc, are not the same thing as the Board of Adjustment would require from other builders. In fact, if you go back and look at the conceptual plans the City accepted, there is statement or engineering plans for the pads on which these rides will sit. The Board never required Westgate to make such plans known.

When weather concerns were raised, the Westgate representatives said they could disassemble the rides within 2 hours and have them on trailers heading out of town. We doubt if Westgate has enough trained staff on site to accomplish that and they never said they would have the staff there to begin with. (Much less they never said where the trucks for moving the rides are going to be located and stored.)

Yet what the tornado of 2013 and the microburst that tore up the pier demonstrate is that Cocoa Beach doesn’t often have 2 hours of warning for weather events.

In our mind, that’s a problem.

It would be one thing if these rides were built to withstand weather events. Certainly rides at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, etc. are designed for weather events. Those rides aren’t portable. Those rides are anchored into the ground. The proposed rides at the pier are not anchored.

Additionally, what happens if a weather event suddenly comes through and the power goes out? Do the hydraulics running on electrical pumps allow the rides to descend? Or are rides stuck in the air?

We demonstrated that the proposed ride site could not handle the rides’ footprints, yet Westgate got approval without disclosing that fact. They got approval based on “trust us.”

We want to trust them We really do. We want to be trusting of all businesses. We want to believe they are not only looking to make a living for their owners, stockholders and employees, but that they are looking out for the safety and well being of their patrons and neighbors.

Yet somehow the phrase “trust but verify” comes to mind.

When roofs are installed, they are engineered and designed to withstand certain levels of winds. On August 3rd, a 50-60 mph ripped open the roof of the pier like a can of sardines. If the rides were in place, no one knows what would have happened because there was no warning and Westgate has not provided any engineering plans, studies, tests, or reports as to whether the rides in their proposed location could survive in tact or would they send debris flying down the sidewalks, roads and beach.

We believe this is a legitimate concern and one that Westgate needs to address in public with documentation.

Call us crazy, but as several people were hit by flying debris from the roof that arguably should have been built stronger by Westgate, we think it is more than reasonable for the City to ask and Westgate to answer questions on the engineering of these rides and their locations in a sudden weather event.

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