Windswept sand creates driving hazard on Hwy 90

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It's a fight that heats up every spring in Harrison County. Strong winds whip up sand along the beach and dump the mess across Highway 90. Some areas are more than a foot deep.

"It is a constant battle during the spring time," said Speedy Rettig, an MDOT Area Supervisor. "We have anywhere from 15 to 20 men down here."

The forces sometimes involve as many as 120 state transportation employees and all sorts of sand clearing equipment. Their strategy is to scoop up the excess sand from the roadway, then dump that sand in designated areas. The loads can add up to as much as 6,000 yards a day.

"With it being as dry as it is, it's like chasing BBs. It rolls around. It won't stay in the trucks. It won't stay in the buckets," said Rettig.

Harrison County Sand Beach crews provide reinforcement. They move in to pick up the dumped sand and pump it back on the beach.

"It's been a little bit worse this year than in previous years," said Chuck Loftis, Harrison County Sand Beach Assistant Director. "And we're trying to do some profiling now to try to move some of that sand and material away from the boardwalks and the seawall."

The seawall and concrete boardwalk, along with thousands of feet of fencing and newly-planted dunes, help collect some of the sand.

"When you have 25 to 30 mile per hour winds for three days, it's going to blow sand, no matter what we have on the beach right now," said Loftis.

This battle is expected to drag on for at least another month.

"It all depends on what the winds do," said Rettig. "Everybody that works in the maintenance crews on the coast knows that in the spring, we're going to have the sand. It's going to blow up."

Removing all the sand means longer work days for the crews. However, because the extra hours are expected this time of year, MDOT and the Harrison County Sand Beach Department include the overtime in their annual budgets.

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