Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day for a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPT. 17, 2009.
MANATEE COUNTY — Steve Smith could see evidence of flooding Sept. 13 as he drove into the entrance of Greenbrook Adventure Park, where he and his 5-year-old twins planned to meet up with friends at the playground.
Tire marks sliced into the grassy areas along the roadway, where vehicles had driven in hopes of avoiding the high water levels. But the scene inside was much worse.
“Once you got to the park, it was just a lake,” Smith said. “The (children’s) playground equipment was just popping up out of the water. Other than the kids being disappointed, it was really something to see.”
As a tropical stormed stalled over the coastline this weekend, reports of flooding came in throughout East County.
The tot lot at Greenbrook Adventure Park received so much rain some of the Styrofoam pads beneath the tot lot’s fake grass floated to the surface, CDD 4 Supervisor Anne Fisher said.
“(I measured) there was three feet of water in the dog park,” Fisher said. “Children were playing on the Styrofoam for boogie boards. The whole area was completely underwater.”
The basketball court, which was installed this summer, suffered severe damage. Supervisors were scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss repairs to the basketball court and playground.
Road segments throughout Lakewood Ranch and even along State Road 70 near Myakka also were flooded. However, the only full road closure in Manatee County occurred on Upper Manatee River Road, just before Rye Road, where water was three-and-one-half feet deep.
Mickey Lutz, maintenance division manager for the county’s public works department, said about 10 off-duty county staff members were called in to help remove debris from culverts and place high water signs and barricades on several other roads.
Water levels did not start receding until 2 p.m., Saturday, after high tide began to let out.
“It filled up everything,” Lutz said. “The tides were high and slowed this water down from getting out of creeks. Even when the tides did go out, there was so much our system was overburden in those areas.”
Summerfield resident Margaret Lanier, owner of Margaret Lanier Photography, was out capturing images of snakes, alligators and other animals seeking refuge from high water levels in her neighborhood.
“They were definitely cutting across the water, just trying to find some dry land,” Lanier said. “We saw so many armadillos. Of course, a couple of cars had stalled out trying to cut through some of the woods that were flooded over.”
Greg Bacon, the duty officer for the county’s Emergency Management office, said about 60 streets throughout the county were flooded for at least half the day.
Because of the increase in rainfall, all three gates at the Lake Manatee dam were opened to eight feet on Saturday to relieve pressure on it, Bacon said. Gates were lowered to two feet by Sunday morning.
Five homes throughout the county experienced flooding.
National Weather Service Forecaster Tom Dougherty said rainfall countywide averaged three to four inches, however, some experienced more than eight inches. A collection point in Palmetto took in 7.3 inches of water, while one at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport only received 3.15 inches of rainfall.
County Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer praised the work of county staff and said Manatee residents should keep grass clippings and other debris out of culverts and drainage areas to help reduce potential flooding in future storms.
Lakewood Ranch CDD officials allotted up to $15,000 to repair Greenbrook Adventure Park.
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