Looking back at a big hurricane season for Sarasota County
This season only brought two named storms to Sarasota. One you probably forgot. One you never will.
| 2:50 p.m. November 30, 2017
The end of the most tumultuous hurricane season Sarasota County has seen in years is finally here. Coastal residents can breathe easy, knowing that the likelihood of another huge storm is low after Nov. 30 and the six months afterward.
The 2017 hurricane season brought two very different named storms to Sarasota: Tropical Storm Emily, and Hurricane Irma.
Emily snuck up on residents seemingly overnight, and hit Anna Maria Island the morning of July 31, with nearly two inches of rain and winds up to 45 miles per hour.
In hindsight, the tropical storm provided an opportunity for emergency officials and residents alike to test-run their storm plans. At the time, they had no idea how important that primer would be.
News of Hurricane Irma reached residents one month later, and a week’s worth of preparation, apprehension and confusion ensued. Irma was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic.
Forecasters warned of unprecedented destruction from a Category 4 storm, with storm surge surpassing 10 feet in Sarasota County and winds topping 150 mph.
In the end, Irma made landfall the night of Sept. 10 in Naples as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of up to 100 mph. The storm surge topped out at three feet.
The damage wasn’t the widespread destruction residents prepared for. But power outages lasted for days, and many had trees fall on their homes or businesses.
19,000 people evacuated their homes, and waited out the storm in 14 shelters. 218,000 people were without power in Sarasota County. More than 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris was estimated throughout the city and county, most of which was just recently picked up.
Debris and damage cleanup in the county has cost an estimated $8.2 million, although there was no significant property or infrastructure damage. The city has spent about $1.5 million on debris removal but is still in the process of estimating Irma's total cost.
Those are numbers that emerged in the days following Hurricane Irma. On Sept. 11, in the daylight after the storm was gone from the area, residents like Harry and Mary Goodan were returning home, cautiously after evacuating days before, not sure what they’d find.
The couple climbed through the branches of a tree that fell across the road to their Siesta Key home, and trekked the quarter-mile back to their home through several inches of standing water. They found their home standing, unscathed, where they had left it.
“The storm was too big to trust,” Harry said. “You never know.”