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Siesta Key Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 4 years ago

Top Story - September: Siesta Key, barrier islands emerge largely unscathed from Irma

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Catch up on the top news items of 2017 with the Observer's Digital Year in Review.

After a week of predictions that the barrier islands would see unprecedented “destruction” and “devastation” from Hurricane Irma, residents that returned home Sept. 11 with trepidation felt only the last few gusts of wind from the storm- and relief.

Siesta Key saw an estimated 1-3 feet of storm surge, down from the predicted 6-10 feet. While some roadways were flooded and fallen trees blocked roads and tore down power lines, residents were already working by the afternoon of Sept. 11 to clear debris and get everything back to normal.   

Asides from the debris and power outages, the most significant issues came in the form of a mandatory boil water advisory. It was lifted by the end of the week.

Peter Hull, a 30-year resident of Ogden Street, just off Higel Avenue, said he was surprised and pleased with what he saw he told the Observer, even as he navigated the branches of a downed tree across his street to survey the damage.

“I expected much worse. I expected to lose my house,” Hull said.

St. Armands Circle was covered in fallen tree debris after Hurricane Irma.

That was the consensus from residents.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for Siesta Key Sept. 8, and residents had 36 hours to prepare their homes and businesses, and get out. At that time, residents, visitors and business owners were just waiting to see the extent of the damage.

Residents' fears were largely avoided. Dinners and shoppers flocked to Lido Key within 48 hours of the storm.  

A few blocks from the beach along Boulevard of the Presidents, the grassy median became an oval-shaped pond after the storm. A tree was uprooted across the street at the intersection of Boulevard of the Presidents and Garfield Street, and down the road at South Lido County Park, several overturned picnic tables were pinned down by fallen trees and tree limbs.

St. Armands Circle may have suffered the worst damage, and most businesses were closed for a day or two following the storm. Though many storefronts were boarded up, a few fallen signs and a downed ceiling fan outside Taste of Italy was the only sign of structural damage on the circle.

South Lido County Park was covered in puddles following Hurricane Irma.

Aside from that, there were only a few puddles of grassy water in the St. Armands Circle Park, along with scattered tree limbs and occasional building debris.

On Bird Key, tree branches scattered the yards of several homes, and one large tree fell on its side along the edge of the Bird Key Yacht Club parking lot. The Club itself was unharmed.

Larger debris were quickly pushed to the side of the John Ringling Causeway leading to St. Armands. A large tree that cracked a small roofed structure near Plymouth Harbor, but that was the most significant damage on Coon Key.

Trees fell during the storm and blocked the entrance to the Point Crisp neighborhood of South Siesta Key. But that didn't stop Harry and Mary Goodan. After climbing through the branches on Sept. 12, the couple waded through several inches of standing water to walk the quarter-mile to their home. At the same time, a private contractor was already removing the trees.

“We said goodbye to the house when we left,” Harry Goodan said. “The storm was too big to trust.”

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