Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Town starts urging residents to prepare for hurricane season

Longboat Key Fire Chief Paul Dezzi gave a presentation to residents Wednesday morning on hurricane preparedness.

  • By
  • | 1:00 p.m. March 3, 2023
The town of Longboat Key has started conversations for 2023 hurricane season preparations.
The town of Longboat Key has started conversations for 2023 hurricane season preparations.
File photo
  • Longboat Key
  • News
  • Share

Hurricane season is still three months away, but the Longboat Key Fire Department wants new and longtime residents to start thinking about preparing for storms.

Hurricane season starts June 1 and concludes Nov. 30. 

While it may seem early to start thinking about preparations, if a large storm is set to hit the barrier island, Chief Paul Dezzi said it is important for everyone from residents, town staff, emergency personnel and condominium and homeowners associations to be on the same page. 

“We started early this year to get people who may be part-time or seasonal residents, so we can try and answer some questions while they are here as well,” he said. 

Dezzi says the department has yet to get any predictions for the season from the National Weather Service. 

On Wednesday morning, Dezzi presented hurricane preparation tips and information over Zoom. Information covered included formal definitions of a hurricane, the difference between a watch and a warning and the different storm categories. 

“The town’s mission is safety,” Dezzi said. “You may not want to hear us tell people to leave the island, but that’s our mission, to ensure a person’s safety and our residents’ safety.”

A main message the department wants to ensure residents keep in mind is even if a storm seems to have passed with clear skies having returned, do not try to make your way back to the island until emergency personnel have given the all clear. 

“Even though it’s clear in the sky, there could still be weather behind it,” Dezzi said. 

The biggest concern for the department amid hurricane season is the potential for storm surge, which is when gathered water from the storm gets blown inland. Tornados can also be close behind the conclusion of a hurricane, causing additional damage. 

He continued to stress throughout the online presentation the importance of evacuating the island when told to do so. Personnel will only tell residents to evacuate for their own safety and when absolutely necessary, he said. 

“If we don’t feel the storm is going to be catastrophic or it's going to be a major storm, then we would be a little more conservative in what direction we are giving to the public,” Dezzi said. “If we strongly feel that we are going to have a lot of storm surge, we’re going to evacuate this island and we do hope that people take that seriously.” 

He recalled that not all residents left the island when told to do so before Hurricane Ian. Although they lucked out this time around, he urged residents to remember that might not always be the case. 

The reality of Hurricane Ian’s hit on Sanibel Island could have been Longboat Key, if the storm would have hit the barrier island like it was originally predicted. 

Dezzi showed a photo of damages to Sanibel Island, warning digital attendees that the same outcome isn’t an impossibility on the Key. 

During and after the storm

Dezzi also gave attendees an inside look into how the town operates during a hurricane. Emergency personnel leave the island and are not available for calls during the storm. 

They and town staff stay in the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center. Staff continues to keep residents updated on what is happening on the Key through Alert Longboat Key, social media and updates posted to the town website. 

“Wait until we see the island is open before you get in line to try and get back over here,” he said. 

If people have considered staying on the island because they don’t feel they have somewhere else to go, Dezzi provided a few options for residents to consider including staying with a friend, traveling to a hotel more inland or evacuating entirely. 

Evacuation orders are given a couple days in advance to give residents and visitors the chances to get everything in order and leave. 

Residents are let back on the island in tiers including 

  • Tier 1: First responders 
  • Tier 2: Property owners 
  • Tier 3: Residents

The department will be holding a seminar on hurricane preparedness on June 1, the first day of hurricane season, at Longboat Key Club in the Harbourside Ballroom.


Latest News