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Longboat gears up for hurricane season with tips from local meteorologist

Town Manager Howard Tipton spoke with ABC7 Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan about the upcoming season.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. May 20, 2023
The town of Longboat Key is hosting its annual disaster preparedness seminar on June 1.
The town of Longboat Key is hosting its annual disaster preparedness seminar on June 1.
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Hurricane season officially kicks off on June 1. The town of Longboat Key is working toward preparing its residents to keep themselves, their families and their properties safe. 

In May’s edition of “Tip Talk” formerly known as “Talk of the Town,” Town Manager Howard Tipton met with ABC7 chief meteorologist Bob Harrigan about the upcoming season and tips to stay prepared. Harrigan has been forecasting weather for the Suncoast for over 30 years. 

“We’re very vulnerable to getting hit by hurricanes each and every year,” Harrigan said. 

Even with the area’s susceptibility to a number of  major storms each year, all it takes is one major hurricane hitting the area to cause destruction. 

“Don’t take what the forecast is and make decisions based on it,” Harrigan urged. “If there’s going to be 20 storms this year versus five storms, should you prepare differently? No, you should prepare the same in each and every way when it comes to these hurricanes and tropical systems.” 

The most important forecast, he said, is the one five days out from the arrival of the storm. It will be the most accurate for what the area can expect. 

“I think we’re all conscious about making sure that we don’t over alert people because you get that alert fatigue,” Tipton said. 

He asked Harrigan what specifically Longboat Key residents should pay attention to ahead of a hurricane season. 

“Making your decisions, and I want to stress this to all Longboat Key residents, on past hurricanes is something you shouldn’t do,” Harrigan said. “If you say, ‘I’ve been through Charley or I’ve been through Ian or Irma,’ it’s not the same.”

There is always a level of uncertainty with how a storm will behave or its final path. For example, Hurricane Ian was originally expected to hit Longboat Key in the way it impacted Sanibel Island, but at seemingly the last second, its course shifted south. 

“You can’t wait; you have to make that decision (to evacuate),” Harrigan said. “Where that center makes landfall will make a big deal in determining if you’re going to get a big storm surge here on Longboat Key.”

Waiting too long to evacuate can be life-threatening. Even moving just out of the evacuation zone between 24 and 48 hours before a storm is projected to make landfall can make the difference. 

According to Climate Adaptation Center CEO Bob Bunting, this hurricane season is predicted to bring 14 named storms to the area. Seven of those, he predicted, will be hurricanes with two or three being Category 3 or higher storms. 

The beginning of the season could be tumultuous before becoming more favorable toward peak season. Peak season is anticipated for early September. The season’s storms could be similar to those in 2022, but more evenly distributed. Last year, there were about two months without storms.


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