Top Story - September: Sarasota, Manatee teams assess Irma damage
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| 9:00 a.m. December 29, 2017
Following the largest storm to hit Florida in more than a decade, Emergency Response Teams worked their way through the Sarasota-Bradenton area the morning of Sept. 11 for a damage assessment while officials urged residents to stay inside.
The center of Hurricane Irma passed north through the state overnight Sept. 10 and early the next morning after striking near Naples in the afternoon. The storm was downgraded to a tropical storm by the morning of Sept. 11 before it continued up the east coast.
At the height of the outages from Hurricane Irma, 4.4 million Florida Power & Light Co. customers, and 218,000 of Sarasota County’s 260,000, had no power. By midweek, 11 of the county's schools were still powerless. Every school would reopen on Sept. 18.
Power was mostly restored across Sarasota within 10 days of the storm, due in large part to 19,000 FPL workers deployed across the state.
During that time, residents reported downed power lines across Sarasota, and traffic lights were sporadically out throughout town. Late on Sept. 11, 153 out of 233 traffic lights in the county were still out. All lights were operational by Sept. 14.
Before the storm, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office fielded almost 14,000 911 and non-emergency calls between Sept. 9 and Sept. 11. Meanwhile, nearly 19,000 evacuees filled 14 shelters throughout Sarasota.
Sarasota County would wait a week to give the all clear after the storm, mostly to send a message to residents that they should continue to use caution as they travel to parts of the county where power could be out, there could be flooding or there could be other dangerous conditions.
Irma was the largest hurricane recorded in the Atlantic, prompting Floridans to start gathering supplies such as bottled water and gasoline a week before the storm, with many stores running out of water by mid-week. On Sept. 8, the county issued a mandatory evacuation order for all residents on barrier islands or low-lying areas.
In Manatee County, the sheriff's office reported closed bridges and downed powerlines across roads in numerous locations following the storm. Around 133,000 Manatee County customers were left powerless following after Irma.
Along with flooded streets and downed trees, a person was trapped in a car after a tree fell on it in the 2500 block of Myakka Road. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said the victim was rescued within hours of the storm.
Like in Sarasota, the Manatee County schools cancelled all classes from Sept. 7 until schools Sept. 18. There were 26 schools opened as shelters, which hosted more than 25,000 evacuees.
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells reported just one incidence of looting during a county curfew from 3 p.m. Sept. 10 through 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11.
Most Sarasota and Manatee county businesses reopened within a day or two of the storm.