- November 9, 2022
Trees were down.
Roads were pooled with water.
Signs were bent or ripped down.
Yet Siesta Key and its residents stood strong Thursday afternoon in the wake of Hurricane Ian's arrival Wednesday.
More photos: See the impact of Hurricane Ian in Sarasota, Manatee
Yassna and Shawn Clancy were out for a bike ride and a bite to eat after checking out their home. The couple had evacuated the home prior to the storm's arrival to follow orders from the county. They went to an Airbnb located by Yoder's in Sarasota that did not lose power and spent Wednesday night eating tomato soup and quinoa while checking the news and watching the movie "Rogue Agent."
"It was terrible," Shawn Clancy said with a laugh. "It was one of those movies that is just too dark."
In the middle of the storm, the Clancy's were looking for fun, not gloom.
The couple returned to their home Wednesday morning to find minimal damage, nothing worse than a small ceiling leak. But the couple insists the decision to evacuate the key was the right one for them.
It was also the right decision for James Carter and his family. Carter, who has lived on the key for 24 years, said Hurricane Ian scared him more than any other storm he's experienced in that time because of its projected impact to the key. In other storms, Carter has stayed. Carter said even this time there were members of his family who wanted to stay, but for the assured safety of everyone, they left and moved to a house near McIntosh Road and Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota.
Carter and his family live on one of the island's canopy roads, which are lined with trees. When Carter and his family returned to their home around 10 a.m. Thursday, he found that one such tree, a pine estimated to be 80 feet long, had fallen into the home's front lawn and rested approximately five feet from the home. The tree was caught on the way down by a different tree, which might have been the difference.
"We're fortunate to have that sucker miss," Carter said, raising his eyebrows and breathing a sigh of relief.
Though he had to spend the day raking his yard with his daughter, Brooke Carter, James Carter knows it could have been a lot worse.
The same could be said for Chris and Kathleen Wilkinson, who also live on a canopy road. The couple evacuated as they did in 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit the area, though at the time the Wilkinsons lived in Lakewood Ranch. That time, the couple stayed in a friend's business that had been "hurricane-proofed," but they didn't like all the common from people they didn't know well. This time, they stayed with friends in Sarasota in a concrete block house near 17th Street and Fruitville Road. It was far enough inland to be in flood zone D, which they felt was safe.
"They had a generator," Chris Wilkinson said. "We had lasagna and brownies. It wasn't too bad."
Wilkinson said he and his wife arrived back at their Siesta Key home Thursday morning to find what they expected: No power, no water, no internet — internet being the most important thing, Wilkinson joked — but otherwise, things intact.
Wilkinson noted that the storm, and the cleanup, has been an opportunity for him to get to know his neighbors better, which he believes is a silver lining hidden beneath the debris and branches. The storm has caused him to think about other more than his family, as he knew they'd be fine.
"I just hope everyone (on the key) is OK," Wilkinson said. "I hate to say we got lucky, but I have friends in Fort Myers and I do think we're lucky compared to people south of us."
Wilkinson's optimism was mirrored in different places along the key. The "Love Each Other" mural in Siesta Key Village was untouched and a spark of love was found on Siesta Beach.
Grace and Kyle Cooper of Ramsey, New Jersey, are on their honeymoon to Siesta Key. The pair were married on Sept. 24 and had originally planned to honeymoon in Puerto Rico, but changed their plans to Siesta Key after seeing that Puerto Rico was going to be hit by Hurricane Fiona earlier in the month. The change seemed fine — until Hurricane Ian was forecasted.
The pair decided to take the honeymoon anyway. On Wednesday, they evacuated and stayed with family of Kyle Cooper in Nokomis. Unlike other Florida couples, the pair was not used to hurricanes. The power went out in their evacuation home, which meant no contact with family or friends to keep them updated. That scared them the most, Grace Cooper said. They stayed in the house's laundry room for extra protection.
By Thursday morning, with the storm dissipating in the area, the couple drove back to the key to continue their honeymoon. Kyle Cooper drew the couple's wedding date in the wet sand as a tribute, spreading the word of their love for each other.
"We're making the most of it," Grace Cooper said.
As is the rest of Siesta Key.