A man died Sunday after a car crash in a parking lot near the Sarasota Kennel Club, and as rains continue, county and local officials respond to other flood-related problems.
A traffic fatality reported Sunday afternoon was directly connected to this weekend's heavy rains and flooding, Sarasota police said.
Sarasota resident James J. Kitchell, 73, was leaving the Sarasota Kennel Club around 2 p.m. and apparently drove into deep water, said Sgt. Bruce King with the Traffic Unit at the Sarasota Police Department.
“It looks like he went around the barricade that was blocking the road,” King said. Officers arrived on scene to find the car submerged in a tributary to nearby Whitaker Bayou. Officers pulled the victim from the water to perform CPR.
The victim was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he later died from his injuries, according to a release from the department. The cause of death has not been determined.
“In my 15 years here at the department I have not seen flooding like we’ve experienced over this weekend, ever,” King said. “I don’t know the last time we had a fatality related to flooding.”
Officials around the area are monitoring the weather and road conditions on Monday. More heavy rain was possible, though storms are expected to diminish by Tuesday.
A flood watch is still in effect for Sarasota County through 9 p.m., Aug. 28, according to the National Weather Service. An area of low pressure over the area is bringing heavy rainfall of up to 3 to 6 inches, with higher amounts possible in some areas. The rain is not connected to Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Since Friday, about 16 inches of rain have been officially recorded at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, including 8 inches on Saturday. According to the USF Water Institute’s Sarasota County Water Atlas, nearly 4.5 inches of rain have fallen near downtown since early Sunday.
Rainfall recorded at the airport on Aug. 26 and 27 broke records, according to data from the National Weather Service.
In the city of Sarasota, flooding was still a problem at Ken Thompson Parkway near Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, according to Sarasota Emergency Manager Todd Kerkering. John Ringling Boulevard was still flooded as well, but cars can pass through some lanes.
Kerkering also said that only one home had been reported flooded, on 23rd Street. The city is working with the Red Cross to help the resident, who was being taken to a shelter that was opened up in Bradenton for Manatee County residents.
Kerkering and his staff is also keeping an eye on neighborhoods around the northern end of the Whitaker Bayou, where he said flooding could occur suddenly.
Several parks and beaches are closed throughout Sarasota County as a result of the rain, including Ted Sperling Park at South Lido and all county athletic fields.
Jason Bartolone, a county spokesperson, said the flooding isn’t anything out of the ordinary for the area, and south county has experienced more problems from flooding.
The flooding has caused officials at the city of Venice to ask residents to conserve water, and Kerkering said that's a good idea for city of Sarasota residents as well. Typically, the city's water treatment facility processes about 8 million gallons of water a day. On Aug. 27, Kerkering said, the facility processed 20 million gallons, as rainwater drains from roads and other areas.
Kaitlyn Perez, community affairs director for the Sheriff’s Office, said Siesta Key wasn’t experiencing any major street closures.
On Longboat Key, officials were keeping an eye on typical trouble spots on the north end of the island and were urging residents to stay off the roads if possible.
Sandbags are now available in three areas throughout the county: Newtown Estates Park, Twin Lakes Park and the South County Fleet Facility. The bags will be available until 5 p.m. Aug. 28, and from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 29.
County officials are cautioning drivers not to drive through standing water, and to call and report any flooded roadways to the Sheriff's department. The non-emergency number is 941-361-1201.
Over the weekend
Over the weekend, the Sarasota Police Department asked people to avoid driving through Lido Key and St. Armands Key, which experienced heavy flooding, as well as U.S. 41 and Gulfstream.
Less than half a mile northwest of the accident outside the Sarasota Kennel Club, both eastbound and westbound University Parkway was closed between U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 all evening due to flooding. As of 9 a.m. Aug. 28, just one lane of the road was open.
Manatee County also experienced flooding, resulting in a shelter opening and several road closures.
The Observer will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.