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How long will our streak last?

The area has been fortunate to avoid a direct hit from a hurricane. Will we always be this lucky?

  • Longboat Key
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Once again, Longboat Key dodged disaster.

It’s a remarkable streak.

The last hurricanes that brought major damage to Longboat Key were in 1921 — an unnamed storm that covered much of Longboat Key with salt water, destroying most of the homes on the south end — and the 1983 No Name Storm.

Nowhere in recorded history is there a named hurricane that made direct landfall on Longboat Key. Which brings to mind the odds. Insurers calculate the odds of 100-year storms. So given history, you can conclude the odds in Longboat’s favor are shrinking. 

But still, how do you explain Longboat Key’s good fortune in all this time? For that matter, you could say the same for the city of Sarasota, the barrier islands from Casey Key on the south to Anna Maria and Bradenton.


The Columbia Restaurant had about a foot of standing water from Hurricane Idalia.
Courtesy photo

One answer could be the parishioners at Longboat’s St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. During hurricane season, they recite a hurricane prayer at every mass, imploring St. Mary’s intercession. Is it the hand of God? 

Another answer could be oft-told legend of the Tocobagan Indian tribe in Pinellas County and the Calusa Indians in Lee County. They built 20- and 30-foot mounds made of millions of shells, bones and “midden” to construct their own waterfront towns. Legend has it the mounds also were spiritually blessed to fend off storms and hurricanes. 

The story has been told so often over the ages, it’s not difficult to want to be a believer. With as many times as Longboat Key has escaped direct hits for a century (and 12 times during the 2000s), the legend becomes convincing.

Fact or fiction, we’ll take it.

This is not to make light of or dismiss Hurricane Idalia and its destructive path through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Its wrath certainly took its toll on St. Armands Circle businesses.

While the winds were not as destructive as, say, Hurricane Charley in 2004, Idalia was unique in that it not only clocked Category 4 winds, it brought and occurred with a simultaneous trifecta here: six to eight inches of rain, three- to five-foot storm surge and high tides converging at once — a potentially disastrous convergence.

Idalia was just the start of this year’s season. Let’s implore our friends at St. Mary Star of the Sea to keep praying and the Indians’ spell to hold up.

And remember: Don’t let hurricane misses bring complacency. You never know. We hope and pray the streak continues.   



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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