Isaac barely blows here

By Steve Estes

First it was a hurricane targeting the Lower Keys, then it was a tropical storm with an uncertain path, then it was a hurricane targeting the Middle Keys, then it was a tropical storm with an uncertain path.

And Tropical Storm Isaac wound up being an average, for the Keys, tropical storm that blew past the island chain rather quickly some 20 miles to the west of Key West across open water.

In its wake, Isaac left some heavy rains and gusty winds for most of the day Sunday into early morning Monday, but very little in the way of damage.

County officials did not call for a visitor evacuation, although they did encourage those who could leave to go, and cautioned those remaining to stay indoors during the height of the storm.

Gas stations and grocery stores experienced the typical onslaught as local residents prepared to weather the small blow, but Keys Energy reported only scattered power outages during the two days of high winds and rain.

Marathon and Key West both sloshed through some minor flooding issues and actual storm damage was limited to a few felled trees, one felled sign on Big Pine Key and some ripped up canvas awnings.

The Keys were placed in a hurricane watch late Friday evening, a status that hints hurricane force winds will arrive in the next 36 hours, but that was downgraded to a tropical storm watch at 5 p.m. Sunday when Isaac didn’t strengthen as anticipated by forecasters.

“No matter what happens, this will be a good drill for our emergency preparedness folks,” said County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

The Keys haven’t been targeted by a hurricane since Wilma in October of 2005 and have had only one minor brush with a tropical storm.

“This just reminds everyone that we can get a storm during season,” said Gastesi.

There were reports of boats breaking loose from their moorings in several areas of the Keys with most of those grounding in shallow water.

Tropical storm force gusts blew across the Lower Keys into Monday about mid day, but sustained winds died rapidly after Isaac passed into the Gulf of Mexico and set its sights on New Orleans, where it made landfall as a strong Category One storm and did some damage.

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