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Masterpieces rise again on Florida beach after weather disaster

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 11/24/2020 Lauren Fox

After professional sand sculptors spent a week working on their beach masterpieces at Treasure Island, Florida, Eta ravaged the coast, destroying all the hard work put into the extravagant sculptures. Now that the storm has passed, however, sculptors are back on their game, working fast to make up for the week of lost work.

The sculptors are participating in Sanding Ovation, an exhibition that features their creations made of just water and sand. Treasure Island, where Sanding Ovation is held, is home to the widest beach on the entire west coast of Florida, which typically would provide enough of a buffer to protect the sand sculptures from the Gulf of Mexico's surf. Tropical Storm Eta, however, proved to be too much even for the expansive beach.

Eta made landfall near Cedar Key, about 150 miles north of Treasure Island, on Thursday, Nov. 12. The storm packed 50-mph winds as it battered the coast. As the storm crashed into Cedar Key -- which was one of two landfalls for the state -- it tore of roofs from buildings and flooded streets. Many people were left without power.

a group of people that are standing in the snow © Provided by AccuWeather
Participants of Sanding Ovation work on a sand sculpture to be featured in the exhibition after Tropical Storm Eta forced them to start over a week into the project. (Photo/Meredith Corson Doubleday)

"Last week was kind of horrid. We had about 500 man hours into this thing already, [the sculpture] was about half complete when the storm came through and this turned into a lake," Dan Doubleday, a sand sculptor involved in Sanding Ovation, told AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala.

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Meredith Corson Doubleday, who was an organizer for the event, said the storm whipped up the water, which then sucked up their sand sculptures and left them with nothing.

"The whole thing just collapsed like a pancake," Corson Doubleday said.

This year marks the 12th that Sanding Ovation has been held in Treasure Island. It was unclear if the coronavirus pandemic would lead to the cancelation of the event like it has for many other festivals of its kind, but according to The Tampa Bay Times, the size of the beach allowed for more than enough space for sculptors to practice social distancing.

However, the dynamic of the event did change due to the pandemic, and because international travel became too complicated, Sanding Ovation was held as an exhibition featuring 10 sculptors rather than a competition for the first year ever. The exhibition featured a "sun henge sundial" as the centerpiece that is actually able to track the sun every day.

a body of water © Provided by AccuWeather
The beach of Treasure Island, Florida, became like a lake after Tropical Storm Eta whipped up water onto the shore, washing away the sand sculptures that were to be featured in Sanding Ovation. (Photo/Meredith Corson Doubleday)

After a week of progress was entirely demolished by Eta's landfall, Doubleday said his team had to start over entirely, working to make up for lost time.

"It was like a nice practice session," Doubleday said of the first week.

Despite having to scramble, Corson Doubleday had an optimistic outlook on their finished creation.

"The Phoenix rises from the ashes," Corson Doubleday said. "We created this in a week, which is definitely at least two weeks worth of work."

Reporting by Jonathan Petramala

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