Tropical Storm Debby came as a surprise last year.
It was a loosely organized system of storms that didn’t appear to be a threat until June 23 — when the Key was already feeling its impacts.
“Debby was stationary for about three days just 200 miles to the west of us,” said Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa. “Not only did we get a lot of rain, but the rain had no place to go because the tide was so high.”
It goes to show what town staffers repeat every year to Longboat Key residents as hurricane season approaches: Be prepared.
The season, which runs June through November, was uneventful for the Key for nearly six years before Tropical Storm Debby struck last year, requiring the town to put the emergency procedures it tweaks every year into effect.
It also underscored another lesson.
“You never know what nature’s going to throw at you,” Florensa said.
Longboat Key experienced flooding and wind damage last year during Debby and also lost approximately 150,000 cubic yards of sand. But Debby spared the Key of any loss of life or major property damage.
In fact, Longboat Key hasn’t had a direct hurricane hit since 1944.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
That’s why town officials encourage residents to have a plan.
The town has information on its website, longboatkey.org, about what to do before, during and after the storm, along with checklists, emergency contact information, shelter information and more.
Most hurricane preparation doesn’t vary from year to year, but it’s important to plan for evacuations, have an emergency supply kit and documents in place and devise a plan for pets and persons with special needs.
A few tips the town’s website offers:
The harder it is for you to leave — i.e., if you’re elderly or have reduced mobility — the sooner you should evacuate.
Sandbags from the last hurricane season can generally be used, but they should be kept in a dry spot indoors, such as a shed or garage, because they could deteriorate if exposed to sun, water and insects.
One of the safer places in a home or condominium to store valuables if you don’t have a safe is the dishwasher, because it’s anchored to cabinets and plumbing, is waterproof and has a door that locks.
According to Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming, the town has been meeting with officials from both counties to tweak plans for how residents and other stakeholders would get back on the Key after an emergency.
“Re-entry has always been a point of confusion because we’re dealing with two jurisdictions,” he said.
Coordinating policies would be especially important in an instance in which people could only re-enter the Key from one side of the island — for example, if a bridge were destroyed.
Want to know more about how to prepare for a storm?
The town will hold a hurricane-preparation seminar from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, June 20, at Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road.
“Debby was, for all of us, a great eye-opener,” Florensa said.
Disaster supply checklist
Stock up on the following items and store them in a water-resistant container by June 1, the first day of hurricane season:
• Two-week supply of prescription medications
• Two-week supply of nonperishable and special dietary foods
• One gallon of drinking water per person per day for two weeks
• Flashlights, batteries, portable radio
• First aid book and kit
• Mosquito repellant and citronella candles
• Two coolers (one for food, the other for ice)
• Plastic tarp for roof and window, tools, nails, etc.
• Water-purification kit
• Infant necessities
• Cleanup supplies
• Non-electric can opener
• Plastic trash bags
• Toilet paper, paper towels, pre-moistened towelettes