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Longboat Key Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 1 year ago

Longboat's Eta damage assessment continues

Beach off limits near Ohana's damaged seawall; former Colony beach structure also damaged.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Town officials are still assessing the damage done by Tropical Storm Eta's rain and rising waters, the extent of which hadn't been seen in decades on the island. 

Longboat Key Fire Rescue spokesperson Tina Adams estimated about 30 homes in the Longbeach Village neighborhood experienced water intrusion, worse that what the town experienced when Hurricane Irma struck  in September 2017.

“Talking to residents who have been here much longer than I have, 40 years plus in some cases, everyone I’ve talked to had said that this is the worst they’ve seen it,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “I think it was the combination of the rain, the high tide conditions [the] evening [of Nov. 11], the storm surge, the wave action in the bay and the wave action in the gulf.

“All of that resulted in, I think, a significant number of homes that had some level of water intrusion. We’re still assessing that.”

Homes also flooded in the St. Judes Drive area, Sleepy Lagoon, Lyons Lane, Gulfside Road and Buttonwood Drive.

The town closed off an area of the beach near Gulf of Mexico Drive and Gulfside Road. It will remain roped off until the seawall is repaired.

“There [were] a number of neighborhoods that saw water higher than they’ve seen in recent history for sure,” Harmer said.

On Monday, the town closed off an area of the beach near Gulf of Mexico Drive and Gulfside Road. Erosion exposed sections of the Ohana property seawall. The town has roped off the area and asked no one to walk there until the seawall is repaired. Additionally, the sand groin at the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort was damaged. 

“We’ve been working with the owners of the Ohana property to put up some of that orange netting around their property because they’ve had some damage to their seawall and we’re trying to maintain a safe area there for the public and to protect people from getting hurt around some of that private seawall that’s been washed out,” Harmer said.

Harmer and Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said planning the town’s emergency response was challenging because the forecast for Eta’s track shifted east and west several times last week. And when the surge and winds were at their worst, a naturally occurring high tide also took place. 

“Forecasting hurricanes and tropical storms is a bit of a science, but I think it’s a little bit of unpredictability and an art,” Harmer said.

On the morning of Nov. 12, the town had conducted an assessment of the island.

“When you do this assessment, you have to look at not just which sand may have been impacted through the erosion from the storm, but they look at the entire beach profile, which goes out into the water to see where did that sand go?” Harmer said.

Harmer said some of the washed-away sand might settle in other areas of the island. He said the town is still conducting its damage assessment to understand the potential long-term impacts.

The town is requesting for residents who had property impacted by the storm to contact Longboat Key’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department at 941-316-1966 to report any damage. Town staff is available to assist residents with questions they may have.


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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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