OCEAN CITY -- Bulldozers and backhoes and front end loaders pushed sand this way and that yesterday as they began the massive job of repairing the protective dunes damaged during a northeaster that ripped through here Saturday.
All day, earth-moving equipment loaded sand covering the huge inlet parking lot onto off-road dump trucks, which hauled it to weak spots in the dunes.
Meanwhile, Ocean City and Worcester County crews scraped sand that clung to the streets like the last remnants of a January snowstorm and pushed it toward the beach. Condominium and hotel managers hired private contractors to remove sand fronm their parking lots and return it to the beach.
Ironically, James Julian, the Delaware contractor whose equipment was hauling sand from the inlet to the dunes at 33rd Street, was to have begun repairing dunes damaged during the Halloween northeaster.
"He had all his equipment lined up there ready to go," explained Dennis W. Dare, city manager. "But that job wasn't there anymore, so we put him to work doing what there was to do."
The Halloween storm had torn away parts of the dunes' leading edges, built over the last four years as part of a $44 million beach replenishment project. The worst damage was near 33rd Street and roughly at 10-block intervals northward.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had recommended using excess sand dumped on the beach near the inlet at the south end of town to replenish dunes for the winter and to begin a new dredging project in the summer.
Mr. Dare said city officials planned to use $168,000 left over from the original project for the first phase of dune repairs -- re-establishing a minimal dune line the length of the beach.
Substantial portions of the dunes remain along much of the beach, but protective fencing ripped from its posts has been flung about. The dune grass that is supposed to help hold sand in place was ripped from its roots at 50th Street and is entwined through the broken fencing.
Mr. Dare said it would take about two weeks to build the minimal dune line, concentrating on areas around 33rd, 50th, 70th and 80th streets where the damage was the worst. But the fences and dune grass will not be replaced until after the dredging project is completed this summer.
Meanwhile, National Park Service rangers say that have found no more drowned ponies or Sika deer as they continue to survey damage on Assateague Island National Seashore.
Ten Assateague ponies and about 20 Sika deer were washed across Sinepuxent Bay to the mainland as water rose too quickly for them to get away, said Larry Points, a park spokesman.
Assateague will remain closed for at least week, he said, to allow for repairs. Parking lots at the south end of the island were covered with water during the storm, and signs were torn down. At Assateague State Park, an 18-foot-high dune was destroyed.