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Longboat residents, leaders prepare for Dorian's gray weekend

Remain informed about storm's progress in Atlantic, fire chief and town manager say.

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  • | 11:50 a.m. August 28, 2019
Rain clouds began rolling in the morning of Aug. 28. By Nat Kaemmerer.
Rain clouds began rolling in the morning of Aug. 28. By Nat Kaemmerer.
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With Hurricane Dorian forecast to come ashore on Florida's Atlantic coast this holiday weekend, possibly between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville, Longboat Key residents and officials kept a close eye on predictions Wednesday while holding off on emergency preparations.

At Publix, shoppers seemed more concerned with holiday-weekend supplies than traditional hurricane basics.

“I haven’t heard much chatter from customers,” Publix Store Manager Willy McLaughlin said. “We’re on the good side (of the storm). I haven’t seen too much anticipation.” 

The island's only supermarket is ready to gear up if needed with extra supplies, McLaughlin said. 

“Once we reach a certain point in the year we try to stay prepared,” McLaughlin said. 

Vince Macchiocchi, stocking up on general groceries and supplies for the guests he has coming for the holiday weekend, said the storm wasn't really on his mind. He’s more worried about the rain and storms potentially affecting boating over the weekend. 

Photos taken on Longboat Key the morning of Aug. 28, 2019.
Photos taken on Longboat Key the morning of Aug. 28, 2019.

Fire Chief Paul Dezzi, who heads the town’s emergency plans, said that while the current forecast isn’t dire for Longboaters, people should take the weather seriously.

“As of right now, this is going to be a rain event, and maybe some wind. But they [Longboaters] need to make sure that they plan and they watch the news and they listen to what we tell them to do."

Town Manager Tom Harmer also said it’s possible to overreact to something five or six days out, “But the key is to pay attention to it. And don’t wait too long to have a plan in place.”

Town department heads planned a meeting for 3 p.m. today to discuss the most current update of the storm.

Dezzi said one specific action residents can take is keeping themselves informed. The town’s Twitter account will be updated regularly. A tweet from earlier today included a link to for people to stay abreast of developments in the forecast. People should also monitor the town’s website.

“The last thing is, if they’re not registered with CodeRED, they need to register themselves with CodeRED,” Dezzi said. “That way, they’ll get all the messages we’re sending out.”

When registered for CodeRED, residents will receive information regarding utility and weather happenings via text, email, recorded phone messages and, for the hearing-impaired, TDD/TTY alerts. CodeRED covers hurricane evacuations/re-entries, water service outages/boil water notices, bridge failures, severe weather warnings and emergency messaging from public safety officials.

Photos taken on Longboat Key the morning of Aug. 28, 2019.
Photos taken on Longboat Key the morning of Aug. 28, 2019.

For seasonal Longboaters who are elsewhere at the moment, Dezzi said he hopes they have someone watching over their homes, whether it’s a neighbor, a service or some other avenue. If they have concerns, they can call the Fire Department, and personnel will answer any questions.

Harmer agreed with Dezzi about staying informed. Even if the storm's local effects are relatively mild, Harmer said, a single toppled tree could be serious.

“We're in the peak of hurricane season, so if you don't have a plan already, you should have a plan on how to respond if we do receive a more direct threat,” Harmer said. “Don't wait. And you have to track the weather, you have to pay attention, we all have to pay attention to the weather forecast.”

Of course, storm tracks can change and intensify quickly. Harmer pointed out that because Longboat is a coastal barrier island, concern related to storm surge is heightened. With hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings, Harmer said, the expectation is if there is a serious storm, people are going to have to be somewhat self-sustaining.

“So things like medicine and water and whatnot, having that kind of plan and idea of a hurricane kit, ready to go with the extra understanding that if you live on an island, you may need to evacuate, and you’ll get that direction from officials,” Harmer said.


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