- December 16, 2020
Town leaders are planning to make a detailed assessment of Eta’s tropical effects on Longboat Key this morning after an evening and night of wind, rain and rising waters.
In a message to Town Commissioners late Wednesday, Town Manager Tom Harmer said the island was fortunate to have avoided widespread power outages and wind damage, but localized heavy flooding was reported.
Compounding Eta’s rising water, driven by persistent tropical storm force winds from the west, was a lunar high tide at around 9:45 p.m.
Longboat Key Fire Rescue responded to several calls of water entering homes and assisted some residents in evacuating to a shelter in Manatee County. Among them, a call for assistance to the 600 block of Russell Street around 8:30 p.m.
Social media posts from residents showed several instances of water rising over seawalls and into homes. A vacationer from Chicago captured images of gulf waves overtopping dunes and rushing up a pathway to the beach.
In some cases, Harmer reported, gulf waves were pushing seawater across Gulf of Mexico Drive into neighborhood streets.
Homes in Longbeach Village were affected, residents said. Water reached inside residences in Buttonwood Harbor also. St. Judes Drive also reported significant flooding, along with other neighborhoods.
Images posted on social media of a sailboat beached mid-island since September showed the vessel had been destroyed by hours of pounding surf.
A downed power line in the 2100 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive halted traffic in both directions for hours around 5:15 p.m., prompting a rerouting of vehicles through Bay Isles. Sarasota Police also cut off access to the Ringling Bridge and the New Pass Bridge in the early evening because of flooding conditions on Lido Key and St. Armands, only allowing residents and emergency vehicles to pass. That restriction was lifted this morning.
On Thursday morning, residents and visitors alike began cleaning up and trying to get back to normal. Doak Schulte, a visitor from Northern Kentucky, was busy sweeping water from the town's pickleball courts at Bayfront Park. He said pickleball players love the game and wanted to get back to it. "Neither wind, nor rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor presidential succession will keep us from our appointed rounds,'' he said.
Schulte said Eta delivered less damage than he feared, but more flooding than he expected. He had never experienced a tropical storm, and once was enough.
"It was interesting to live through,'' he said. "I've done that now. It makes me hesitant now to come down to Florida during the hurricane season. Hopefully it's over now. The weather forecast says we'll get some sunshine now. The wind has already died down.''
Lisa Bettis, the resident manager at the Sea Club Beach Resort in the 4100 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, said the property came away largely undamaged though there was debris to clean up and some trees that needed attention.
"It was quite windy, probably the windiest Ive seen it,'' she said. "We fared OK.''
She said she considers herself fortunate that the storm wasn't worse. "That was my first thought, but you have to roll with the punches.''
This story is developing. Check back frequently for updates.
Longboat Observer reporters Mark Bergin and Nat Kammerer contributed to this report