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Siesta Key Saturday, Sep. 9, 2017 2 years ago

Irma worries Siesta Key residents, visitors, business owners

Residents have until Saturday at 8 p.m. to evacuate the island ahead of Hurricane Irma, which is projected to cross directly over Sarasota.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

The Siesta Key Village on Friday afternoon was nearly empty, nothing like a typical end of the week.

Cars drove past every so often. The few people in view dashed from their cars to  Morton’s Market, or put the finishing touches on the few windows that still awaited sheets of plywood. The handful of businesses that remained open were still.

Just a few hours after the county issued a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A — barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas — some Siesta Key residents had already left. Others were preparing to do the same. 

Dylan Case, 4, Dylan Walters, 4, and Eleena Case, 6, wait until it's time to evacuate the Key.

Kavitha Case planned to leave the Key with her family to stay at the hospital at which she works.

“We moved here in 2013 and it was never a thought,” she said of hurricane season. While her family has a new roof and hurricane shutters for most of the windows, many of the homes in her neighborhood are older and are in need of some improvements.  

“I heard the 6 o’clock church bells at St. Francis from my front door today and stood and listened for the first time,” she said. “I hope to be able to do that more often.”

Bryan Palmer and Rosie Elliott pick out snacks on Morton's Market before evacuating Siesta Key.

At Morton’s Market, Bryan Palmer, Eric Elliott and Rosie Elliott were grabbing some supplies before heading back home to Miami. Irma's original path sent them to the gulf coast, but a shift in the forecast had them reconsidering.

“We came over here to hide and maybe just ride it out,” Eric Elliott said, who owns two properties on the Key and has family here. He said he was thinking that Sarasota’s never been hit, so he brought his daughter and a friend here to be safe. “Maybe just our luck ran out.”

Palmer said with the storm, his biggest concern is “after.”

“It’s not about surviving,” he said. “I think we all know we’re going to survive. It’s more about the afterward.”

Erica Peitre helps prepare a restaurant in the Siesta Key Village for Hurricane Irma.

Eric Gastman, manager of the Cottages on the Key, said that in 10 years of managing the properties, he’s never had to do this type of preparations.

Erica Peitre was helping him and said they’re concerned about Irma's sheer size.

“It’s breaking all sorts of records and heading our way,” she said.

Melody Mullet, 21, helps prepare Big Olaf Creamery in the Siesta Key Village before Hurricane Irma hits.

Employees at Big Olaf Creamery had another concern: melting ice cream.

“We have almost 100 tubs,” said Melody Mullet, the store manager. “We don’t have any generators or anything for our freezers, so we’re really hoping if the power does go out, it doesn’t last too long.”

Eric Elliott's property on Beach Road is boarded up, but it's future is uncertain as Hurricane Irma approaches.

Mark Smith, an architect, Siesta Key resident and head of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the storm is going to be “devastating” to the island.

“It’s sad, but we’ve been due, I hate to say,” he said. Smith said that buildings that haven’t been built to code, like older buildings or cottages around the Key, are the ones that will be “wiped out.” Newer buildings, though, will likely be fine. For him, the biggest concern is the storm surge.

“It’s gonna be bad. But we’ll recover, and building codes work,” he said. “We’ll build back to be better and stronger … we’re a resilient community.”

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