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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 4 months ago

Eta's effects: 220 flooded homes, 275,000 cubic yards of missing sand

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Even with Eta's effects on Longboat Key, wind damage was minimal.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Tropical Storm Eta washed about 274,000 cubic yards of sand from Longboat Key beaches in November, according to initial town estimates, but a lot of that sand didn’t go far.

“There’s some sense that the sand is not all going to go away,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “It’s going to move around. Some of it’s going to come back. Some of it’s going to end up somewhere else on the island.”

In a post-storm briefing delivered this week, Harmer and Public Works Director Isaac Brownman briefed town  commissioners on the Nov. 11 storm’s effects on the island and potential lessons learned.

Town leaders also learned that more than 200 homes experienced some kind of water intrusion. Residents of the north end Longbeach Village took the brunt of the flooding, when Eta’s storm surge and wave action combined with a regular high tide.

Water along Broadway Street on the night of Nov. 11 and the early morning of Nov. 12 reached nearly as high as fire hydrants in some cases. Around the island, work has begun ridding homes and condos of sodden carpeting and drywall.

Mike Bergin, who lives in Twin Shores, is among those whose residences were rendered temporarily out of service. He said his unit is being restored now but that the work will take weeks.

“Silver lining, our neighbor four doors down is not coming down at all for the season and has lent us his condo indefinitely as he cannot visit this season because he lives in Canada,” Bergin said.

The private seawall behind the Ohana property was damaged.

Harmer said the island was fortunate not to experience broad power outages with Eta, but one downed power line took hours for Florida Power & Light to repair, tying up police officers who had to divert traffic from Gulf of Mexico Drive until the utility workers could arrive.

Brownman said the lost sand was being factored into plans for the town’s beach renourishment projects scheduled to kick off in 2021. He said the town’s multifaceted plan had attracted strong interest from competing companies, which might bring reduced costs in recapturing some additional sand that doesn’t naturally flow back to the shoreline.

Another concern was the shape of beach dunes, which took a beating from Eta’s waves.

Sand lost to the storm likely will wash back up on the island's shorelines.

“In some cases, there are areas where the beach looks bigger, but it’s flatter because the dune sand was spread out,” Harmer said. “That’s something we’ll need to look at.”

Harmer also said the town experienced good cooperation  from other agencies in the response of high-water vehicles to help drive into flooded areas. The town also working with the city of Sarasota in keeping Ringling Bridge open for residents and emergency units coming and going during the storm.

He also said the town might begin considering the possibility of buying some kind of vessel or vehicle for the town to deal with high water.

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