As gusts of winds and gray skies lingered Thursday morning, Sarasota and Manatee residents began emerging from their places of shelter to assess the damage from Hurricane Ian the night before. In many cases, the verdict was a succinct one: Our area, once again, got lucky.
Although Sarasota was planted firmly in the crosshairs of the projected path of the storm earlier in the week, by Tuesday it was apparent the hurricane, which ballooned to a Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph before making landfall, was tracking south toward southern Sarasota County.
That means instead of the large-scale flooding and wind damage seen to residents of southern Sarasota County and Lee and Collier counties, northern Sarasota County and eastern Manatee County’s damage on the mainland was limited primarily to downed trees, fences and signs; power outages; and a few cases of localized flooding.
Nearly 200,000 Florida Power and Light customers were without power at noon Thursday. Cable and broadband outages also were widespread and some cellular service was spotty. In the north Sarasota ZIP code of 34243 alone, Xfinity estimated more than 2,5000 customers without service.
A few fallen oak trees blocked streets around Southside Village on Thursday morning, but the ones on Grove and Hyde Park streets fell in the roadway and did not damage any structures. Meanwhile, the line was building at Serving Spoon as storm-weary residents showed up to the only open restaurant around to grab a hot breakfast. One patron explained that the eatery shares the same power grid as the hospital, so they were ready to open for business.
“We dodged a bullet, for sure,” said Southside resident Anthony Layzell, who rode out the storm in a home in the Alta Vista neighborhood. “We moved here from California 11 weeks ago and fled earthquakes, droughts and fire, and then this. You people are not nice to newcomers,” he added with a smile.
About a mile away in downtown Sarasota, city crews were busy picking up downed limbs and street cleaners were clearing Main Street of debris. A few downed awnings blocked sidewalks or flapped in the wind, but the sandbags businesses stacked in front of their doors remained in place and dry.
Dozens of residents flocked to Bayfront Park to check out the damage and also get out of the house after sheltering at home for the past day. Alan and Kayla Zak walked around the park with their three kids after riding out the storm in their home near Interstate 75 in Sarasota. They said they lost power Wednesday night, but they were thankful it came on again at 4 a.m. Thursday.
“The kids were just eating up all the Facetime before the power went out,” Kayla Zak said. Luckily, the family had some Halloween decorations out and one candelabra in particular became the kids’ favorite item amidst the dark.
Pat and Hugh Beetham returned to their Calamonga Lane home in Southgate after sheltering with their son nearby to find sections of their fence down, as well as a tree in their backyard. They said their son, who has buried power lines, never lost power during the storm — or Direct TV.