Instead of being lashed by a hurricane Monday, all was clear on Gasparilla Island after weathering the weekend threat of Tropical Storm Isaac.
The Lee County Emergency Operation Center was prepared to issue a mandatory evacuation order Friday, Aug. 24, for Boca Grande and surrounding areas in the face of a projected 5- to 7-foot storm surge. The Lee EOC called off the evacuation watch Sunday as the weather threat eased.
Boca Grande Fire Chief C.W. Blosser said TS Isaac was much less damaging than TS Debby two months ago.
Orion Marine Construction crews were back on the bridge-building job Tuesday after a brief interruption from Tropical Storm isaac.
"As of now there are no issues or concerns on Gasparilla Island," Blosser said early Monday morning. "The bridges and roads are clear from major debris and scattered small limbs."
Gasparilla State Park Manager Chad Lach was cautiously optimistic regarding beach erosion Tuesday after Isaac has passed.
"Since we are still having higher than normal tides, it is hard to tell if any erosion took place," Lach said. "But from what I can see the beach looks to be in good shape. It does not appear to have washed over like it did during (Tropical Storm) Debby."
Standing water on the roads was less than after TS Debby, Blosser said.
Utilities were all normal with no power or water problems.
It still looked dicey when the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority locked down the Swing Bridge at about 5 p.m. Sunday after sustained high winds rose above 40 mph.
Prevailing winds dropped overnight and the Swing Bridge turnbuckle locks were removed at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
"Fortunately, we did not experience the high storm surge that was forecast," said Jim Cooper, GIBA executive director. "The weather forecasters appear to have overestimated the potential impacts of this one for our area, which is a good thing for all."
Orion Marine bridge construction crews returned to work Tuesday after being off the job Monday in anticipation of the storm. Orion Marine stored and relocated all Gasparilla Causeway marine construction equipment Aug. 23-24 in anticipation of TS Isaac's arrival.
All Orion's barges, smaller boats and two large cranes were sited just past the Swing Bridge and rafted together with spuds down until after the storm passed. All loose objects such as traffic barrels and cones were removed, too.
The bridge-building project remains on target, Cooper said.
As Tropical Storm Isaac slipped by Gasparilla Island Sunday night and Monday morning without fulfilling its hurricane potential, prayers for safekeeping were redirected to Gulf of Mexico neighbors still in its path.
TS Isaac was initially expected to pass Gasparilla Island offshore about 100 miles out but it veered nearly 100 miles farther west, which softened the stormy blows considerably. It dumped less than half the 10 inches dropped by TS Debby June 27.
Disorganized TS Isaac never appeared to be a deadly storm on the scale of a Hurricane Charley but it still had the potential to become the 12th hurricane to hit Boca Grande. A persistent westerly veer away from the Sun Coast Sunday, however, kept the storm spinning away from that historic niche.
Charlotte and Lee county officials handled the storm a bit differently.
Lee and Charlotte counties issued state of emergency orders at 2 p.m. Friday as a precautionary measure without issuing evacuation orders or closing government offices or schools. Both later closed schools and government offices before the weekend was out.
Charlotte County issued an evacuation order for barrier islands. Lee County did not.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office stayed closed Monday despite the balmy conditions. The Lee County Sheriff's Office did not close Monday.
There was even a silver lining to the clouds scudding across southwest Florida skies over the weekend. The two tropical storms so far this season have softened the grip of drought conditions during this sizzling summer.
"Our water levels and well fills have definitely risen," said Bonnie Pringle, utility director for the Gasparilla Island Water Association. "It's good news."