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Myakka City residents are calm, but they respect Idalia's threat

Julie Farmer stops by the sandbag station at the Myakka Community Center. She's not as worried about her cabin off River Road as she is her cottage on Anna Maria Island.
Julie Farmer stops by the sandbag station at the Myakka Community Center. She's not as worried about her cabin off River Road as she is her cottage on Anna Maria Island.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Myakka City was a sleepy little town on Tuesday morning as Hurricane Idalia approached. The sandbag station at the Myakka Community Center was void of people. 

Dan and Julie Farmer were two of three people shoveling sand into bags. The couple lives in a cabin at the end of River Road, but the sand bags were headed to a cottage they own on Anna Maria Island.

Both husband and wife were born and raised in Manatee County. They’ve owned their cabin since the 1980s, so they were going through the motions and accepting of the fact they can’t control a hurricane. 

“For what it’s worth,” Julie Farmer said with a shrug of her shoulders as she loaded another sandbag into the back of the couple's truck. 

The Farmers were lucky during Hurricane Ian and only lost their air conditioning and ducts while the cabin’s roof and walls survived. However, they live in an oak hammock and still haven’t cleared all the downed trees Ian left behind.  

The couple lives along the Myakka River. Despite drought conditions, they said the river has risen over the past few days. 

“It’s about half full,” Dan Farmer said. 

The rain upriver affects their home, too, so flooding is a way of life. The couple evacuated for Hurricane Ian, but they’re staying put for Idalia. 

Down the road, the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch was busy preparing the animals to shelter in place. But first, they found as many foster homes as possible. Staff and volunteers were able to secure foster stays for a dozen dogs and puppies. 

Staff also sped up the adoption of a Border Terrier mix named Squirt. Squirt, along with five other pups, were fixed Tuesday morning. Because the dogs need extra care following surgery, finding homes for them through the storm was important. 

“Annette came in last week and fell in love with Squirt, but Squirt wasn’t fixed yet,” HSLWR Board and Executive Committee Member Cindy Jackson said. 

Annette Fitzgerald takes Squirt home a few days early due to Hurricane Idalia.
Courtesy photo

All pets are fixed, vaccinated and microchipped before being adopted. Squirt would’ve normally stayed a few more days before heading to his forever home, but with a hurricane on the horizon, staff members made it happen Tuesday afternoon.

Staff also contemplated removing brand new sun shades that they recently bought and installed after receiving a $20,000 grant. The shades replaced a tree and shades that were destroyed during Hurricane Ian. 

As Idalia headed north Tuesday afternoon, the shades remained in place because they were designed to withstand 75 miles per hour winds. The staff's focus was turned to the ground as standing water was already accumulating in the late afternoon. 

A dozen plus volunteers were in and out of the shelter all day. They were picking up dogs or pulling toys out of the yard. 

“Our buildings are not a concern,” Shelter Director Dani Ziegler said. “We sandbagged everything for Ian, and we did pretty well. (Idalia) doesn't look terrible, but of course, we’re still preparing everything.”

The buildings can withstand a Category 4 hurricane, and staff saved the sandbags from Ian. There’s one large door into the dog kennel that opens like a garage. Water crept under it during Ian, so for Idalia, all the remaining dogs were moved to the back of the building. 

The cats will have to live without the catio for a day or two because they’ll be locked inside for safety. 

“We don’t have the capability to have somebody there overnight,” Jackson said. “We don’t have the space, but we also don’t have the funding.”

What the shelter does have are employees and volunteers that live close by and will be returning to the shelter Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. The shelter is also equipped with a security system and cameras. Ziegler can check on the animals anytime of the day or night.

It wasn’t during a hurricane, but Ziegler did get a 1 a.m. wake up once because of a security breach. A Hoodini Husky crawled out of the biggest kennel in the shelter, walked around the room and then shimmied the handle, which are required because of fire codes, until the door opened. 

“He walked around the parking lot, came back in, closed the door and laid down,” Jackson laughed. “Dani could see what she was doing.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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