FEMA gave out almost $10 million in individual assistance grants in Sarasota County, and as we head into another hurricane season, residents are still working to get repairs completed.
Data from the Federal Emergency Management Administration about assistance awarded to residents and business operators confirms what most in Sarasota County already surmised: Hurricane Irma could have been worse.
In Sarasota County, FEMA has provided $9.7 million in individual damage-assistance grants, according to an agency spokesperson. To compare, the Keys received about $62 million and Collier County, where Irma came ashore, received $34 million.
“We really, really lucked out from what could have happened,” said Scott Montgomery, emergency management section chief for Sarasota County.
Montgomery said the damage to most structures in the county was “nothing that would make the home uninhabitable,” save a few homes.
The same goes for the city of Sarasota, said Emergency Manager Todd Kerkering. Residents and business owners dealt mostly with storm debris, downed power lines and roof damage.
“We really didn’t see any storm surge that flooded entire Lido,” Kerkering said. “It was the minor damage.”
According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Sarasota County had almost $43 million in paid losses after Irma, from 11,000 insurance claims.
As the next hurricane season approaches and residents get FEMA grants or insurance checks, they’re still in the thick of cleaning up.
Between September 2017 and January 2018, Sarasota County has issued more than 500 storm-related building permits, although a county spokesperson pointed out there’s no way to know if the damage being repaired was from Irma or other storms.
Gina Furey, office manager at Zolar Roofers, said her company still gets dozens of calls a day for people who need roof repairs.
"I feel like we were having at least 30-50 calls a day,” Furey said. “And that lasted for quite a while… the crews are doing new roofs every day.”
Although things have slowed down slightly, Furey said there’s still a four-to-six week backlog. She encourages residents not to wait, with the next hurricane season starting June 1, and Kerkering agrees.
“I would encourage the folks to get those repairs done,” he said, adding that now is also a good time to prepare for another big storm.
“It’s about learning from what just happened — what can you do to make your stuff better?”