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St. Armands cleans up after heavy rains

Edwardo Diaz and Yenifer Aries clean up the sidewalk outside Alvin's Island shop after torrential rains caused flooding on St. Armands Circle on June 12.
Edwardo Diaz and Yenifer Aries clean up the sidewalk outside Alvin's Island shop after torrential rains caused flooding on St. Armands Circle on June 12.
Photo by Jim DeLa
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Shop and restaurant workers were up early Wednesday, cleaning up after torrential overnight rains that stranded cars, seeped into stores and forced the closure of St. Armands Circle for several hours.

The National Weather Service recorded 5.35 inches of rain in a six-hour period at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.   

A station in Siesta Key has reported nearly a foot of rain with many locations over 5 inches, the weather service said.

The St. Armands Residents Association reported major flooding in residential areas overnight, causing anxious homeowners to report in. 

“I sat on my front porch and watched car after car create gigantic waves,” said one homeowner quoted by the association. “People seem to think this is fun and games and enjoy creating these waves. It’s not fun and games for the business and property owners."

The sun began peeking through clouds at daybreak Wednesday. By 8 a.m., Sarasota Police were reporting that only a handful of side streets were still closed in the St. Armands area. Abandoned and disabled vehicles were being removed from the road near North Boulevard of the Presidents and North Washington Drive.

Employees clean up outside Alvin's Island on St. Armands Circle June 12 after torrential rains hit the area.
Photo by Jim DeLa

By 9:30, employees of Alvin’s Island on St. Armands Circle were almost finished with cleaning up the sidewalk outside the store. Edwardo Diaz and Yenifer Aries were shoveling up debris and pebbles that were washed from planters on the sidewalk. 

“We fought the water,” Diaz said, adding standing water rose to the bottom of the display windows. “Every car that went past, the water went onto the glass,” he said.

Water did seep inside the store, but no damage was done, he said.

Across the circle at the Columbia Restaurant, tables and chairs normally on the sidewalk were stacked inside. Workers were pressure washing the sidewalk. Owner Casey Gonzmart Jr. was using a squeegee to push water into the gutter. 

Employees of the Columbia Restaurant work to get the business back in order June 12 after torrential rains and flooding the day before forced it to close.
Photo by Jim DeLa

He said as the water reached the building Tuesday afternoon, the decision was made to shut down. 

“The water started creeping in and we said ‘No more service.’” Water rarely gets this high, he said. "Other than last year's hurricane, I can't remember it getting this bad."

Jeff Houck, the vice president of marketing for Columbia Restaurant Group which owns the Columbia Restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts next door, said both restaurants will be closed today to finish clean-up. 

“It was a lot of rain,” he said, adding customers shouldn’t have to dine with mud and debris underfoot. “We want to do it the right way,” Gonzmart said. “We’ll be open for lunch 11 a.m. tomorrow.”

Looking ahead, the National Weather Service says there is a 90% chance of showers and possible thunderstorms Wednesday. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch are possible. A flood watch is in effect for Sarasota and Manatee counties until 8 p.m. 

Even more showers are expected Wednesday night, with new rainfall amounts up to an inch.  

On Thursday, more of the same, with possible rainfall amounts between 1 and 2 inches.



Jim DeLa

Jim DeLa is the digital content producer for the Observer. He has served in a variety of roles over the past four decades, working in television, radio and newspapers in Florida, Colorado and Hawaii. He was most recently a reporter with the Community News Collaborative, producing journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties; and as a digital producer for ABC7 in Sarasota.

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