- September 27, 2022
In preparation of soon-to-be Hurricane Ian, the Longboat Key Public Works Department set up at the Broadway Street Beach Access on Sunday to provide up to 10 bags for residents to fill with sand ahead of the storm.
Residents were able to bring their own additional bags to fill as needed.
Public Works Department crew leader Mark Kerr helped staff the station Sunday morning, checking proof of residency prior to handing off bags.
Read more: Tropical Storm Ian updates for Sarasota and Manatee counties
"With any named storm we are always monitoring it," he said. "Because of the island's elevation, it is easy for homes and roads to flood."
More than a dozen residents were present around 9 a.m. to take advantage of the free service. The station was staffed with bags until noon.
Fire Chief Paul Dezzi spoke to town residents Saturday afternoon during a 15-minute conference call in which he said under the present forecast, the island on Wednesday and Thursday should be ready to expect heavy rains, saltwater storm surge and street flooding, particularly in areas already prone to such conditions. The town also said dangerous rip currents would be a significant risk so beachgoers should avoid entering the water, swimming or surfing.
High tides here are 2:05 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Tuesday and 2:33 a.m. and 3:29 p.m. Wednesday, a concern when added to the potential of higher waves and surge levels brought about by Ian's winds and lower pressure offshore.
"This is a nice feature the town provides," resident John Schmidt said. "It is our first year on Longboat Key and we are in a spot pretty susceptible to flooding."
Schmidt and his wife, Mayra, worked together to fill their 10 bags. She held open the bags as Schmidt shoveled sand from the mound into them.
Kerr said that during Sunday's event, he was working to educate residents about their ability to utilize the sand mound outside of scheduled days.
"Residents can buy their own bags from places like Amazon and Home Depot and bring them to fill up their bags here any time," he said.
Friends Marti Wood and Starr Shafer were also among the Key's residents who opted to fill the town-provided bags.
"This is actually our first time out here for a sandbag filling," she said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."
She added that her level of concern is lower than it was Saturday as more information comes out from the National Hurricane Center.
"Fail to plan, plan to fail," Shafer added.
Shafer added that while she was present at the station, her level of concern is very low as she will be out of town during the storm.
The self-filling sand bag station is meant to serve Longboat Key residents, property owners and commercial interests only to help address potential flooding issues, an email from the town about the event said.
According to Sunday's 5 a.m. update from the NHC, Ian is expected to remain a major hurricane when it moves generally northward across the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the middle of the week. There is higher-than-normal uncertainty in the forecast of the long-term track and intensity of the storm. Regardless, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of the week.
Residents are encouraged to have their hurricane plan in place, closely monitor updates to the forecast and follow advice provided by local officials.