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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 3 years ago

Tornado spares 'Lucky Longboat'

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Tornadoes swept through Sarasota and Manatee counties, leaving Longboat on high alert but without major damage.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Strong storms and two tornadoes caused major damage Jan. 17, on Siesta Key and in eastern Manatee County, where two deaths were reported. 

But as Longboat Key resident John Wild said, “Once again, Lucky Longboat was spared” from any major damage.

That’s not to say it was an easy night of sleep for Longboaters. Around 2:25 a.m. Sunday, wind and rain surged, and cellphones began blaring with alerts that a tornado warning was in effect.

“The phone rang, and we thought it was the announcement that our second grandchild was born,” said Wild, a resident of Winding Oaks in Harbourside. “Boy, were we wrong.”

Wild described the wind on the south end as “fierce.”

“There were a lot of limbs down and branches,” Wild said. “But all in all, we were very fortunate.”

Buttonwood Drive resident B.J. Bishop said the boat basin behind her home flooded from the rain, causing her backyard and side yard to flood, along with many neighbors’ yards.

When her cellphone went off at 2:25 a.m. alerting her of the tornado warning, Bishop said she did what any former wife of a journalist does after receiving a late-night call with breaking news.

“The first thing I did was step outside to take a look,” Bishop said. “The wind and the rain were unbelievable. We so lucked out when you see what happened on Siesta Key. It could have been much worse for us.”

Twin Shores resident Vicki Craig said the wind was severe mid-Key. She was shocked to walk through the mobile home park the next morning and find “nothing but a few tattered flags.”

“That wind was at the top of the list as far as severity goes for the 12 years we’ve lived out here,” Craig said. “We dodged a bullet for sure.”

On the north end, Lands End resident and Commissioner Pat Zunz said the wind and rain woke up many residents. At daylight, Zunz said her neighborhood and the Longbeach Village “had some of the greatest amounts of standing water that we’ve ever witnessed.”

Public Works Director Juan Florensa said high tides from the storm created standing water issues, and Public Works employees were on the scene early Sunday to also deal with water lift station problems that resulted from power outages that occurred sporadically north of Broadway early Sunday.

The storm also resulted in sand loss in and around two new groins installed just north of the North Shore Road beach access to hold sand in the area and in other locations that are scheduled to receive sand this year during beach projects.

Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi arrived on the Key at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to survey the area with firefighter/paramedics.

In an 8 a.m. email Sunday to department heads, Dezzi concluded, “Longboat Key had no reports of any significant damage from the storm that passed through earlier this morning.”

Police Chief Pete Cumming said he “took his marine patrol officers out of boats and put them in squad cars” with other patrol officers and added an extra officer to survey the Key with firefighter/paramedics and Public Works employees.

“It’s hypervigilance, and it’s what we do,” Cumming said. “Despite some flooding and some power outages, nothing was out of the ordinary. Longboat Key dodged another bullet and came out of this in really good shape. We got really lucky.”

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