OCEAN CITY — Prolonged and extreme cold temperatures were as much to blame for the most recent damage to the iconic Ocean City Fishing Pier during a storm late last week, resort officials confirmed this week, and the structure should be completely repaired by the summer season.
Last Thursday, a strong low-pressure system coupled with frigid temperatures and snow, sleet and rain descended on the resort, continuing a pattern of similar storms in recent weeks. In the storm’s aftermath on Friday, as many as five large pilings from the easternmost end of the historic Ocean City Fishing Pier had snapped off and washed up on the beach, leaving the end of the pier hanging downward.
By Friday morning, crews from the pier lease holder, Bayshore Development, were already on the scene, cutting up the five damaged pilings that had snapped off and washed up on the beach during the storm. Crews were scene using chainsaws on the damaged pilings in order to make them easier to haul away. Over the weekend, the latest damage to the pier was being assessed and plans were unfolding for its restoration again.
The pier was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012 and repairs were made through much of last fall and winter before the fully restored structure was opened again to the public on the eve of last Memorial Day weekend. This time, the damage wasn’t nearly as severe. City officials and Bayshore Development assessed last week’s damage and determined the prolonged cold temperatures coupled with the heavy surf associated with the storm were to blame for the latest destruction.
The tall pilings that support the pier are designed to give way and flex in the surf and wind and on the calmest of summer days the large structure can be felt swaying somewhat from side to side. However, the deep freeze in the area for much of the winter made the pilings brittle and they snapped under the pressure of the storm last week.
“I spoke that day with the pier franchise holder and [City Engineer] Terry McGean and it’s pretty obvious what happened this time,” said Mayor Rick Meehan this week. “Both agreed the extreme and prolonged freezing temperatures froze the pilings and caused some of them to snap under the duress of the storm last week.”
Meehan said Bayshore Development has already begun to assess the damage and make plans for a rapid and complete repair before summer.
“Under most conditions, the pilings and the whole structure give somewhat and sway,” he said. “That’s the purpose of the pilings. But when the prolonged frigid temperatures froze them, they snapped in the heavy seas during the storm. They got on it right away and the debris was cleaned up on the beach and that very day, they had already started to assess the damage. The franchise holder assured me the damages were not as severe as Sandy and the pier would be repaired before the summer season.”
Meehan said, just as in the days after Sandy, the damage to the pier attracted considerable attention with as many as 40,000 viewing the pictures on the town’s Facebook page.
“It’s one of those iconic things that draws peoples’ attention and people are attracted to it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it was damaged again, but it’s not as extensive as the damage caused by Sandy.”