Tropical Storm Debby formed off the Gulf Coast June 23 northwest of Tampa with a poorly defined center and no obvious direction of travel. But as the wind field grew wider while it remained almost stationery, the effects of the tropical moisture with persistent rainfall and wind wore away the resistance of beaches and its inhabitants.
By Monday June 25, constant battering by 20 – 40 mph wind and 10″-16″ of rain took its toll on shorelines and low lying property. Combined with high tides, a 2-3 foot storm surge poured over seawalls, rose up through storm drains and flooded streets and yards.
Saturated ground had nowhere to drain. Streets and yards remained covered with water even as the tide dropped but the surge raised the sea-level. Onshore wind pushed the sea state higher over the shore. Softened soil and gusty winds uprooted some trees and sent limbs and palm fronds flying.
Many who have stayed for years at island resorts for their annual vacations eventually think about buying property in their favorite place. Anna Maria Island is that favorite place for a wide range of people who have one thing in common: they love the simple, Old Florida beauty here. Although Anna Maria Island lodging offers a wide range of comfortable places to stay, there is something special about having one’s own island home.
Since many people thinking of making the move are from places very different from this tropical island paradise, here is a list of things to watch out for as one selects one’s new island home:
1. Neighborhood flooding can come from high tides, storm surges or just heavy rainfall. Just one or two inches of elevation can make the difference between whether a particular home or yard is often standing in water, or not. Ideally, the potential home buyer should be sure to visit the island during the rainy season, staying at one of the island resorts, in order to drive around after heavy rain and see which properties are standing in water. It’s very hard to predict which properties will be dry and which will be flooded just by looking at them. At the very least, try to talk to others in the neighborhood and ask how often the street is closed due to high rainfall, or whether they have seen standing water at the property in which you are interested.
2. Anna Maria Island rentals are often interspersed among second homes that are not rented. Anyone who depends on peace and quiet should take a careful look at whether there are a lot of island rentals signs in the yards on the street where they are considering buying. Usually, there are more island rentals close to the beach, and this is one reason it’s not necessarily ideal to own a home right at the beach, unless, of course, you plan to rent it. If that’s the case, it’s good to keep in mind that rental properties with swimming pools are much easier to rent.
“Old Florida” is a term people love to use when describing a place that has not been taken over by the development trends of the day. It has been a favorite way to describe Anna Maria Island for many years … both by residents and visitors who truly love the simple charms of the area. It’s also a favorite term of those whose main interest is selling the island to the public. “Old Florida ” is a great marketing slogan.
Unfortunately, even among those who think they love the Old Florida feeling of a place, it is challenging to know how to identify the details that give that feeling. And it’s even more challenging to protect them. Often the details that need to be protected do not sound very glamorous. But getting rid of things that are not glamorous is a sure way to destroy the sense of history and simplicity that are so much a part of Old Florida.
Who wants to argue that an old shack should not be torn down? Especially among those whose main priority is marketing. Who wants to argue against “beautification?” Or replacing an old bridge with a big modern bridge? Or getting rid of invasive, exotic plant species?
On Anna Maria Island, when you see an empty lot with new construction about to begin, you know the new building will tower over the traditional Old Florida one-story homes in the neighborhood. Why? It’s the law, to some degree, at least. In 1975 FEMA made it mandatory that all new construction place the first living level at a certain specified number of feet above sea level, which means either having to raise the lot with a huge amount of fill, or building the living space on a second and, possibly, third floor. This coincided with the start of government involvement in flood insurance programs. When the government starts ‘taking care’ of you, it starts telling you how to do things.