Indeed, only two tropical systems — Claudette and Ida — hit the U.S. mainland, and they, according to the AP, "caused little destruction."
Well, that depends on what one means by "little."
Even a small storm can cause considerable damage — to homes, condos and businesses along the coast and to the beach itself. This year, when Tropical Storm Ida blew ashore, Alabama's south Baldwin County took quite a beating.
Since the storms of 2004, Baldwin County, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park have spent more than $24 million to add more than 6 million cubic yards of sand and restore the beach. Ida tore away several hundred thousand cubic yards of sand from this manmade shoreline.
The fact that public and private property was not lost is a testament to the importance of the beaches.
However, beach restoration is expensive; it is not entirely clear who will pay most, if not all, of the cost to replace what was lost. The federal government picks up much of the tab, but in these recessionary times, coastal cities and counties are having difficulty finding the funds to pay their share.
Nevertheless, this much is clear: Tropical Storm Ida damaged Alabama beaches, but it was because of those beaches that more damage was not done. This should remind local, state and federal governments that beaches are more than playgrounds for residents and are critical parts of tourism economy.
Beaches are the barrier between inland and the gulf. Failing to rebuild the barrier because it is expensive only means that the next storm, or the one after that, will do more damage and cost even more — for all taxpaying Alabamians.
As far as the coast is concerned, it is pay now or pay later, and later will be much more expensive.