County’s beaches ‘fared quite well’ during Hurricane Ian, staff reports

‘No significant structural damage’ observed on Siesta Key, Casey Key or Manasota Key

Because Hurricane Ian’s winds primarily were offshore as it traveled through Sarasota County, the beaches “fared quite well,” the county’s Environmental Protection staff reported in a document dated Sept. 30, after shoreline assessments were conducted.

“The recently renourished project area on Manasota Key appeared to perform well,” the report said, though staff noted that it was awaiting further information from the project managers. “The majority of our photo stations showed no signs of significant erosion, as there was no evidence that wave action had reached the vegetation line or exposed bluff at many locations,” the report added.

The renourishment initiative — the first undertaken on Sarasota County’s portion of the barrier island — was completed in April 2020.

Further, the report said, “No significant structural damage was observed at photo stations on Manasota Key, Casey Key and Siesta Key, including no widespread damage to dune walkover structures, or cabanas.”

However, the report did point out that the areas on North Casey Key Road where step revetments have been put in place, to try to prevent further erosion, exhibited some sand washout, “as evidenced by exposed rocks and pilings.”

Additionally, the report said that some of the homes fronting the Gulf of Mexico in the 7100 block of Manasota Key “remain at risk, but no significant changes were observed between pre-storm and post-storm photos. Several of these homes have an approved Coastal Setback Variance for shoreline hardening,” the report added.

“Numerous trees were damaged and down” on Manasota Key, the report continued, “with Manasota Key Road limited to one lane in many places. Staff was unable to reach the Charlotte County/Sarasota County line on Manasota Key” because of a “large downed Australian pine” lying across the road in the 6400 block, the report noted.

Moreover, “Staff did not observe any catastrophic structural damage to residences” during its Sept. 30 beach assessment, the report pointed out. Much of the structural damage that staff observed involved pool screens, lost shingles, roof tiles, gutters and soffits, the report said.

Although a National Hurricane Center “forensic analysis” of Ian could end determining that it was a Category 5 storm when it hit, it still is being identified as a Category 4. The county report did note, “This storm remained very faithful to the initial predicted storm track” issued on Sept. 23, which “indicated early on that it would travel into the southwest coast of the Florida Peninsula in our area. … During the days leading up to the storm, the projected track of Ian shifted westward, and for a time it was anticipated that it might stay offshore of Sarasota County” and make landfall in the Panhandle, the staff report added. However, eastward shifts in the projected path began on Sept. 26, “as the storm was making its way to and through western Cuba,” the report continued.

“The storm made landfall as a Major Hurricane (Category 4, on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) in the vicinity of Cayo Costa off the coast of Fort Myers” at 3:01 p.m. on Sept. 28,” the report noted, “with widespread structural damage between Fort Myers, which experienced significant storm surge, and South Venice, which experienced wind damage to structures. Tropical Storm and Hurricane force winds persisted for more than 12 hours as the storm passed through Sarasota County. Areas to the south of Venice took the brunt of the storm as it made its way through Sarasota County,” the report pointed out.

“In Sarasota County,” the report added, “Ian caused widespread impacts to trees and variable damage to structures … Offshore winds arrived in the early morning hours” of Sept. 28 and shifted to onshore winds on Sept. 29.

“The storm caused widespread power outages,” the report acknowledged, and Ian generated a lot of rain, with forecasts having called for more than 12 inches. That rain “caused localized and significant flooding in some areas,” the report said.

The following is information related to specific conditions on the county’s barrier islands:

Siesta Key

  • 9230 Blind Pass Road — The beach at this location “continues to experience erosional forces following the latest South Siesta Key Renourishment Project in 2017. Wave action was reaching the base of the seawall around the swimming pool” at the time that county staff was undertaking its assessment inspection. Evidence of sand deposition was visible, as made clear in comparison photos, the report said.
  • North Beach Road — The groin on property that Siesta resident Mike Cosentino owns near the intersection of Avenida Messina and North Beach Road “was ‘high-and-dry,” the report pointed out, and it was “a considerable distance from the breaking waves” seen during the inspection. “A shallow lagoon has formed seaward of the [groin].”
  • 7808 Sanderling Road — Near the northern limits of the South Siesta Key Renourishment Project, staff observed “evidence of erosion,” as well as the formation of an escarpment estimated at 4 feet.

Casey Key

  • North Casey Key Road — In the area where the step revetments are located, staff found no significant change, “no road damage and only minor overwash with very limited sand deposition on the road,” the report said. “The road remains stable and passable.” The report did note, “Strong wave action was observed colliding with the step revetments at both locations, but no overspray was observed reaching the road” during the assessment. County staff is developing plans and pursuing permits for repairs and maintenance of the northern step revetment area, which is in the vicinity of 728 N. Casey Key Road, the report added.
  • 2110 to 2100 Casey Key Road — The county-installed sandbags “south of the bend in Casey Key Road performed well and remained intact,” the report continued. “Wave action from the storm did not appear to reach the [TrapBags].” Staff also is working on plans and pursuing permits for stabilizing this area with a more permanent structure, the report pointed out.
  • 2007 Casey Key Road — In March 2021, the owner of the property at that location received a Class II Emergency Variance for the construction of a temporary seawall and additional foundation underpinnings, the report noted. The seawall and the underpinnings were installed in 2021, the report continued, and they have provided protection to the foundation of the house. Staff found no significant changes to the property as a result of Hurricane Ian’s strike.

Other Manasota Key details

  • Blind Pass Beach Park, located at 6725 Manasota Key Road in Englewood — “Dune vegetation planted along Manasota Key Road persisted following the storm. It did not appear that wave action interacted with the vegetation or roadway.
  • “Staff observed several areas on Manasota Key” where floodwaters had not yet receded on private properties, the report said. Water was over the road in a couple of places as staff worked on its inspections.
  • As the sea turtle-nesting season is approaching its end — Oct. 31 — few marked turtle nests remained on the barrier island, the report noted. “No washed-out nests were observed,” it said, though staff did see several stakes marking nests, indicating that those nests “weathered the storm.”
  • The Pearl Motel, standing at 7990 Manasota Key Road, had good beach conditions, including a broad expanse of sand to the north of the site, the report pointed out. However, the hotel suffered roof damage, the report said.