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Harmer provides report on town status following Hurricane Ian

The town is said to have not experienced sustained hurricane force winds.

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  • | 8:48 p.m. October 17, 2022
Though damage was minimal, some mobile homes were damaged in Ian's winds, that peaked with gusts to near hurricane strength.
Though damage was minimal, some mobile homes were damaged in Ian's winds, that peaked with gusts to near hurricane strength.
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Town Manager Tom Harmer on Monday provided Longboat Key Town Commissioners an update on the status of the town's recovery and cleanup after Hurricane Ian and a timeline of remaining events. 

According to the report, the town began closely monitoring what would become Ian on Sept. 22, as the storm began gathering force south of Cuba as a tropical depression. Forecast models at that time differed on where the storm would head, putting much of the eastern Gulf coast on alert.

"We watch the tropics all the time during hurricane season especially," Harmer said. 

The following day is when the Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency, including both Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

On Sept. 25, the town opened its sandbag station with staff from the town's Public Works Department manning the area and calling for additional truckloads of sand to be delivered to the mound. 

The original forecast had Hurricane Ian making landfall north of the barrier island, which could have delivered a devastating storm surge, but once the storm actually arrived on land, it was more than 50 miles south of the Key. 

"It put us on the top side of the storm, which is the best place to be because as the winds come around, they are going out into the Gulf and not blowing onto the island," he said. 

Data from a weather station at one of the town's fire stations showed that the highest sustained winds the island experienced peaked at less than 50 mph. Gusts of wind reached between 72 and 74 mph at its strongest. 

"It could have been much worse," he said. "If someone says 'I lived through a hurricane on the island,' it was more like a tropical storm. Don't take that for granted the next time a hurricane is coming our way."

At around 5:45 a.m. Thursday, Harmer and Fire Chief Paul Dezzi met on the mainland to make a joint run through the island before First In Teams were allowed. Dezzi had already made a solo trip at about 1:30 a.m. 

Pictures Harmer included in his presentation showed power lines down, minimal freshwater flooding from rainfall and tree debris.

In his analysis of the town's response, Harmer included statistics on the town's communication with residents, which he said can always be improved. 

Thirty-five commission emails were sent out separate from those to the public. Ten Alert Longboat Key messages were sent. On each of the town's social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, 35 posts were made. Daily town staff updated information on the town's website. 

On a typical day, the town's website receives between 15,000 and 20,000 visits. At the peak of the storm, the website received just over 77,000 visits.  

At 1 p.m. on Sept. 29, following staff evaluation of damages and condition, the town allowed entry for individuals included in Tier 2 and Tier 3, which included residents. All power was finally restored by Wednesday, Oct. 12. 

Harmer reported minimal impacts to the barrier island's beaches. 

As of Friday, Oct. 14, 196 truckloads of debris had been collected. 

"Our public roads are pretty much complete on the first pass," he said. "We know there's usually at least two and sometimes three passes on public roads. On private roads, all the agreements are in place, and we started last Friday on the private roads for the first pass."

In order to complete debris pickup in a timely manner, the town has asked residents to ensure all debris is out at their residence by Oct. 28. Vegetative debris must be separated from construction debris. 

At the time of Monday's report, the town is still in a state of recovery. 


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