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Hurricane Isaac blows past Key

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 29, 2012
  • Longboat Key
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The most coveted items on the Key over the weekend were bags of sand.

The town ran out of bags Saturday morning, just one day after it made sand, bags and shovels available to residents at the Broadway beach access. Some residents filled as many as 30 to 40 bags in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac’s wrath.

“Sandbags were a hot commodity,” said Public Works Director Juan Florensa. “We gave out literally hundreds of sandbags.”

In the end, Isaac’s fury sounded more like a whisper than a roar.

Longboat Key experienced scattered showers and intermittent winds throughout the day Monday and flooding in low-lying areas such as the Longbeach Village following high tide Tuesday morning.

Its effects on the island were nowhere near the hurricane conditions that seemed a possibility heading into last weekend.

But, with memories of Tropical Storm Debby still fresh, residents and town officials alike braced for impact.
Town Manager David Bullock sent his first Isaac-related memo to the Longboat Key Town Commission 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, relaying the latest advisories that anticipated that the storm would pass to the west of the Key early Tuesday morning. The memo stressed that its track could change because it was several days away.

The early warning Isaac gave was a marked contrast from Debby, which didn’t become a named storm until late Friday, June 22, and by Saturday had brought the first of three days’ worth of rain, heavy winds and flooding to the Key.

Isaac got additional attention from the national media last week because of its potential impact on this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa.

By noon Friday, the storm had shifted further west than anticipated, with forecasters predicting the storm to pass 100 to 150 miles west of Longboat Key Monday.

That day, police increased patrols and dispatch in preparation for the storm.

Public Works crews began preparing by boarding up parts of Town Hall, ensuring that generators were functioning properly and fueling up town vehicles. According to Florensa, the department was more concerned with rainfall than debris, not only because of the vegetation cleared out by Debby but also because Isaac had winds of just 40 to 50 mph.

The National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for coastal Sarasota and Manatee counties Saturday.

Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi said that Saturday the town began contacting the approximately 45 island residents on special-needs registries to determine whether they needed help evacuating. Many had already evacuated or were out of town for the summer, but about a dozen were in need of assistance.

Caregivers made arrangements for most of those who needed help, but firefighter-paramedics transported one person to Sarasota Memorial Hospital and arranged for another three people to go to shelters by bus.

A voluntary evacuation was also issued for mobile homes and low-lying areas on the Key Sunday.

To ensure that the department had sufficient manpower, firefighters on the Monday shift were called into work at 6 p.m. Sunday instead of their normal start time at 8 a.m. the following morning.

“We didn’t want to jump the gun, but when it’s time, we have to pull the trigger,” Dezzi said.

Meanwhile Sunday, many town employees were notified not to report to work Monday.

But Sunday evening, Isaac’s path shifted further west than anticipated, removing the threat of any major impact on the island.

According to Florensa, residents seemed better prepared for Isaac in the wake of Debby, which was the area’s first major storm impact since Tropical Storm Alberto in June 2006.

“This time around, I think we were a little more aware,” Florensa said. “We hadn’t had a storm before Debby for quite a while, and we got to use it as a training exercise.”




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