- May 20, 2021
Hurricane season came to a close on Nov. 30, a season of near misses on Longboat Key and less damage than initially feared.
Though Hurricane Ian's threat prompted the first island-wide evacuation since 2017, the storm's path ended up sparing the town significant damage or flooding, as took place as recently as 2020, when Tropical Storm Eta pushed enough water into neighborhoods to enter about 220 homes. More than 200,000 cubic yards was initially washed away from beaches in that storm, as well.
Tropical Storm Nicole, which approached from the Atlantic Coast, did not prompt evacuations.
The town reported spending approximately $645,000 total for the season, broken up between debris removal and associated expenses, staff overtime and other costs.
Most of the town's costs are subject to reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the bulk of the costs were related to debris removal and monitoring, a FEMA requirement.
Owing to the track of Hurricane Ian, even the town's beaches fared better than once feared, when Ian was forecast to land near the mouth of Tampa Bay.
"Like Hurricane Irma, Hurricanes Ian and Nicole were significant hurricanes to the communities where landfall was made,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “However, on Longboat Key, none of them brought more than tropical storm conditions to the island as they passed.”
After Hurricane Ian, which made landfall farther south than even expected 48 hours earlier, beach assessments were conducted. Minimal erosion and shifts in the beach contours were found, making a claim for assessment by an outside entity unnecessary.
“Our beaches actually fared really well,” Public Works Department Programs Manager Charlie Mopps said. “There was little to no impact.”
According to Mopps, the sea level during the storm was actually two to five feet below normal because of the offshore winds created by the storm's counter-clockwise rotation. By contrast, points south of Ian’s landfall experienced increases in sea level to 15 feet or more.
“It seemed like Hurricane Ian was basically taking the water from the north and pulling it to the south,” he said.
Debris cleanup was a large undertaking to tackle as debris from trees and construction were the main points of concern following the hurricane. Cleanup provided by a town-contracted service started on the barrier island on Oct. 5 on public roads within the town. Private roads followed as right of entry agreements were required for contractors to make sweeps of those roads.
Because Gulf of Mexico Drive is a state road, the town was advised that contractors of the town were not allowed to pick up debris along the road. The Florida Department of Transportation did one sweep of the road before private contractors were allowed to follow.
The loss of power was another issue that faced Florida Power and Light customers on the island. At its worst, more than 257,000 customers in Sarasota County were without power. In Manatee County, more than 135,000 customers were without power at one point in time.
The center of Hurricane Ian made landfall near Sanibel and Captiva Islands with 155 mph sustained winds just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The storm made landfall at a Category 4 with winds just under the cut-off for a Category 5 distinction.
Impacts of Tropical Storm Nicole were minimal.
However, a quick look at the conditions of the island’s beaches was still completed as is customary for the town’s public works department following a storm.
“Nicole did impact the beach a little,” Mopps said. “We see impacts with winter tides and storms similar to what we experienced with Nicole. Once we are through the winter months and the wind and tidal direction shifts back to the spring summer trend, we should see some of the sand return. All in all due to the heightened fill elevation of the sand we placed during the last nourishment, the town fared well throughout this storm season.”
Peak wind gusts at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport reached near 50 mph Nov. 10 as the storm moved over the area. By 1 p.m. that same day, the National Weather Service had discontinued the region’s tropical storm watch.
Nicole first landed at Vero Beach around 3 a.m. the morning of Nov. 10 as a Category 1 hurricane.