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Tropical Storm Debby left little of America's No. 1 Beach exposed Monday, June 24 as the surf stretched more than 100 feet north of Siesta Key Beach lifeguard stands. Photos by Rachel S. O'Hara.
Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 5 years ago

Year in review: June 2012, 'Debby dominates Key'

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

The award-winning sands of Siesta Key Beach were barely visible Monday, June 25, after Tropical Storm Debby pummeled the island over the weekend.

Seawater stretched to the sand dunes separating the parking lot from the beach, and part of Beach Road was covered with four feet of water, blocking Siesta Beach’s main access. Lifeguards raised red flags barring people from entering the Gulf of Mexico for the first three days of the week.

And this was all caused by a tropical storm that made landfall on an island 300 miles north of Siesta, giving residents only a taste of the damage that a Category 2 hurricane would cause, according to Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane.

The biggest impact of Tropical Storm Debby was the flooding, which prompted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to close June 25 a 0.7-mile stretch of Beach Road skirting Siesta Beach and issue warnings about several others.

A Sarasota County Water Reclamation facility overflowed from the rain highlighting the nagging stormwater runoff issue that a $2.8 million project is designed to fix.

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, a Siesta resident, worked from home Monday because saltwater made her street inaccessible. And contractors were unable to reach the beach on south Siesta Key to work on Hyatt Siesta Key Beach Resort drainage pipes that were clogged because Midnight Pass Road was under water, Patterson said.

The windy conditions caused work stoppages on the Siesta Key north bridge rehabilitation project, according to Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Stafford. The contractor working on the 120-day continuous work timeline stopped construction Sunday and Monday nights, and Stafford will report on the effect on the project’s timeline after a weekly meeting with the contractor.

“Obviously, it’s time out of their schedule,” Stafford said. “It’s a compressed schedule already.” But the contractor, who gets a bonus incentive if work is complete by Oct. 16, will likely do what it takes to make up for lost time, she explained.

The flooding was surprising, after the dry conditions the previous week, said County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, whose district experienced little structural flooding.

“The drought actually helped,” he said. “What would be bad is if another storm came in after this.”

Sarasota County Public Works will be sending out teams of workers to clear debris when flooding subsides, McCrane said.

Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid declared a local state of emergency, authorizing Emergency Management to use county funding and allowing the county to become eligible for state and federal dollars.

Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane oversaw the partially activated Emergency Operations Center and briefed Sarasota County commissioners on the storm during the June 26 regular meeting.

Siesta nests
As of June 23, 198 sea-turtle nests have been laid this season on Siesta Key.

Turtle nests are able to withstand water as long as the eggs are not exposed, according to a news release from Mote Marine Laboratory.

Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association, had been monitoring a nest of snowy plovers that was expected to hatch Sunday. The nest was destroyed by the flooding.

Road Closures
Siesta streets ranged from soggy to soaked after Tropical Storm Debby’s prolonged stay in the Gulf of Mexico, causing some road closures and prompting Sarasota County to place road under water signs throughout the Key. Here are some of the roads Sarasota County reported flooded or closed June 26: Canal Road, Beach Road, Avenida Del Mare, Roberts Point Circle and Flamingo Avenue.

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