The tree she planted as a seedling 23 years ago was on its side, a victim of Category 4 Hurricane Ian very early Thursday morning.
River Club's Marilyn Blazakis looked down at the fallen ficus fig as if it was a family member.
"It was the tree of the neighborhood. I planted it when it was this big," she said, holding her hands apart about a foot.
Fortunately, the big tree on her front lawn didn't fall toward her house.
"Thank God we were so fortunate," Blazakis said. "It went down about 4 a.m."
It was a similar story all over the Lakewood Ranch area as hundreds of trees fell due to the severity of Hurricane Ian, but few homes suffered substantial damage from the storm.
All of East County was not so fortunate.
"Myakka really took the brunt of the storm," said Steve Litschauer, the county's deputy director of public safety. "They had 100 mph winds and 10 inches of rain."
Litschauer said one home on the west side of Myakka was completely destroyed and another was believed to be a total loss. He said 20 homes in Myakka City reported moderate damage, though reports of damage were still coming in.
Myakka City's Brian Zechman said the hurricane's atmospheric pressure popped the Mason jars in his cabinets.
"It was a bad one," said Zechman, who has lived in the area since 1981. "Sometimes I didn’t think we were going to come out of it.”
Saddlebag Creek's William Zinn said it was a long night in the Myakka area.
"It just lasted so long. It just kept going and going," Zinn said. "Trees falling down, things hitting the house. … It was scary.”
Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy in Myakka was hit hard by Hurricane Ian.
Rebecca Blitz, the executive director of SMART, was relieved to see that all the horses were alive and well when she arrived at the nonprofit at 6 a.m. Thursday.
The horses had to be kept in a pasture on the property because it was safer than securing them in the stalls. Blitz saw that several trees had fallen, there was roof damage, water was bubbling up from the broken waterlines underneath the arena and a tree crashed into the lanai of a home on the property.
Blitz said the nonprofit is desperate for funding to repair damages and clean up the facility so it can start its programming once again.
It wasn't quite as bad in the Lakewood Ranch area, where the National Weather Service reported wind gusts of approximately 80 mph and 6-8 inches of rain.
The winds ripped apart the yard of East County's Bob Bowermaster, who lives on Saxe Road, a hundred yards west of Linger Lodge.
Seven or eight trees were either totally knocked over or snapped in half.
Bowermaster pointed at a huge oak tree limb that fell just by his front door.
"My wife (Michele) and I were standing right here last night talking, and we went into the house," said Bowermaster as he stood next to the big limb. "As soon as we went in, this fell."
Bowermaster, who has lived there since 1988, believed a small tornado hit his street because all the trees and limbs that fell look like they had been twisted off. Manatee County did not report a tornado.
As far as the Braden River that runs alongside his home, he said he wasn't worried about rising water, saying the river rose much higher during other hurricanes.
Although Linger Lodge RV Park didn't sustain any extreme damage, it did take a serious hit. The RV Park had been closed for two years due to reconstruction and upgrades and had just opened on Monday. The restaurant had reopened Aug. 5.
However, much of the fencing around the RV park had been blown away and two huge trees were downed in the middle of the campground. The lower half of the campground was completely submerged as the Braden River flooded it.
A big tree fell on to the front of the restaurant, although the damage, yet to be assessed, appeared to be minimal.
"It's going to be a lot of work," said Freidrich Hoffelner, who manages the RV Park. "But this happens when you live in Florida. Everything can be repaired."
He was thrilled the new clubhouse on the property wasn't damaged and the new pool cage came through fine as well.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Florida Power and Light reported it had restored 42,460 customers with power while another 97,010 were still without power. Peace River Electric Cooperative reported at the same time that 32,365 customers were still out of power and 36,371 customers had been restored.
Manatee County reported no deaths due to the hurricane. Primary routes in the county were all cleared by 2 p.m.
Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said anyone who had their water shut off should follow a 24-to-48-hour boil order from when service returned. He said everyone in the county was being asked to limit the amount of water they used with showers, washing dishes, laundry and flushing toilets.
Van Ostenbridge said Lake Manatee was lowered five days ago and both the lake and dam are in good shape.
He said to treat un-signaled intersections as a four-way stop.
Main Street at Lakewood Ranch showed only minor damage.
By 9:30 a.m. Thursday, most evacuees at Braden River High School, which was one of 17 schools serving as a shelter during Hurricane Ian, were headed home.
Parrish's Trece Campbell evacuated with her family to Braden River High as an extra precaution after remembering the impact Hurricane Irma had on the area in 2017.
Campbell said she was grateful for all the School District of Manatee County staff working at the shelter to ensure everyone felt safe even as the power went out at 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We were at peace," Campbell said.
On Thursday morning, Joann Kavanaugh, the owner of Arts A Blaze, was sweeping out a small amount of water that had covered the floor of her business.
She said her business suffered almost no damage and would be open on Friday.
"We lost a box of envelopes," she said.
Staff writers Ian Swaby and Liz Ramos contributed to this story