By Rich Pollack
As she raced up the Florida peninsula, Hurricane Irma left a little bit of rubber in her tracks.
Residents living along the coast in Highland Beach peered out their windows several days after the storm to find dozens, maybe even hundreds, of tires scattered along the beach.
Distributed with one here and one there, rather than in large groups, the tires appeared almost as if someone had placed them deliberately.
“I was shocked to see all those tires on the beach,” said resident Lois Haymes.
Where the tires came from is a bit of a mystery, although one of the more plausible theories is that they broke away from an abandoned artificial reef created in the 1970s off Fort Lauderdale beach. The reef, which included an estimated 700,000 tires, is in the process of being disassembled because it never quite lived up to expectations as a welcoming habitat for marine life and actually resulted in the destruction of natural habitat as loose tires scraped the ocean floor.
Where some of the tires are going, however, is more certain.
Clayton Peart, president of Universal Service Corp., which is contracted to clean private beach properties in Highland Beach as well as the Delray public beach, says his teams have scooped up between 40 and 50 tires and taken them to the solid waste transfer station.
In addition to white-wall tires and regular tires, some covered in barnacles, Peart’s crews also found a set of large truck tires that might have come off a seawall or a boat.
Although Irma is long gone, it may be a while before all the tires are picked up since it appears that more are being covered by the sand and may vanish from sight until another strong wind blows through.