Tropical Storm Eta brings more water than wind to our shores

Longboat Village flooding,

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With an aggregate value totaling billions of dollars, Longboat Key may be one of the most precious spits of sand in the Gulf of Mexico. But its location lies in a sea of vulnerability.

Last week, Tropical Storm Eta underscored the island’s unstrategic position that is borne from the combined threat of a relatively minor storm striking during a high tide.

“We were hit really hard with flooding. We saw combined sea levels rise five feet from the storm surge and the high tide and several areas on the north end saw the Gulf washing over properties and into the streets. On the bay, we saw water flood over seawalls,” said Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer.

Numerous residents told Harmer that it was much worse than anything associated with Hurricane Irma, which mainly devolved into a waiting game for Florida Power and Light to reconnect service.

Harmer said he went to North Shore Drive at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night and was surprised to see the water surging right over the seawall and into the roadway. That happened an hour before high tide.

Scores of homes were flooded in the Historic Longbeach Village, with older structures built on grade encountering water rushing right through their front doors.

Longboat Key Police and Fire/Rescue were called to evacuate a 90-year-old woman when water surged through the first floor of the home and she had to stay on the second floor until they arrived. Part of the effort in extricating the woman was to ensure the electricity was shut down at the property to avoid potential electrocution.

The flooding situation led to a fatality on Bradenton Beach when a homeowner was electrocuted while in close proximity to the 220-volt circuit panel in his flooded home.

Northshore Road an hour before high tide.

Longboat Key emergency personnel had to call in assistance from neighboring jurisdictions because their Fire trucks could not safely clear the flooded streets in some areas of the town.

Harmer said that all day Wednesday residents took advantage of the free sandbags the town provided and the town had to obtain multiple refills due to the demand.

Other than structural damage to homes, perhaps the singular most expensive cost of any storm on Longboat Key is damage to the shoreline. Harmer said the beaches were clearly impacted and he looked at isolated sections of erosion. The beach was surveyed the day prior to the storm to form a baseline to assess the damage. Often, wave action following a storm will return eroded sand and the beach will recover some of its storm losses.

Because the region was declared in a State of Emergency, protective measures taken by the town will be reimbursed by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Harmer said that hopefully the flooding serves as a reminder that if we have a future hurricane in the future that comes in from the Gulf, people really need to follow the advice to evacute.

“This storm, while not a hurricane, gives us a hint of what could happen,” said Harmer.


Two boats with failed anchors beached taken from patio on Golden Gate Point looking toward The Ringling Bridge and Harts Landing bait shop.

Seawall spills over to lawn.

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