After Idalia: Communications Director Jamie Carson gives update for Sarasota region
Written by WSLR News on Thursday, August 31, 2023
As far as wind goes, we dodged a bullet, but we’re still struggling with flooding from Hurricane Idalia. Sarasota County Communications Director Jamie Carson gave WSLR News an update on the aftermath.
By Johannes Werner
Original Air Date: August 30, 2023
Host: As far as wind goes, we dodged a bullet. But we’re still struggling with flooding from the storm surge produced by Hurricane Idalia. During high tide today noon, water levels were 3-5 feet above King Tide, the usual high water mark. Due to that, the city of Sarasota decided to block streets in downtown, including the main North-South artery. Also, all bridges in the area connecting to barrier islands remained closed as of midday today.
A few minutes ago, Sarasota County Communications Director Jamie Carson gave us an update about the aftermath of Idalia.
Jamie Carson: We’re working very closely with our municipalities on their assessments of areas such as downtown Sarasota. Our Public Works team as well as our Preliminary Damage Assessment teams have been out throughout the county today. And we are definitely seeing some of the flooding and the impact of the storm and that flooding’s damage to our roadways, especially along our coastal area.
Host: High tide was midday today. Is that the expected peak or should we be concerned about the next high tide as well?
JC: So we were really focused in on that high tide route that occurred about 11, 11:16, 11:15 this morning. We were factoring in, we’ve been looking at the the idea of the King Tide and how that was going to impact this as we were having this conversation with the National Weather Service over the past few days. So that was really our point of concern, was that tide that occurred around the 11 o’clock hour today.
[We’re] starting to see those water levels adjust and recede a little bit. But we are currently monitoring the situation and making determinations, and really, it’s gonna take some time for those water levels to recede so that our teams can fully assess the damage to those roadways and finalize their plan for repairs.
Host: What can you say about the major street and road and bridge closures right now?
JC: So we’re getting those updates from the different areas. Obviously, looking at the bridges, there have been some closures. Focusing in on obviously the bridges that are going out to the coastal communities, if you’re not a resident out there, you don’t need to make that trip over there. We advised that [people] steer clear of those bridges, allow that area for residents to make their way to their residence, to check on their property, on and off the bridge. And just, you know, not necessarily for anybody just to go out there and just take a look. If you’re looking to see what’s going on on the coastline, I would say take a look at your local news, follow the county on social media, and just heed our advisement to steer clear of those areas so that we can get out there, assess it, and make sure that it’s safe for travel.
Host: Any idea how long it could take until the bridges are reopened?
JC: I know that as our municipalities were getting reports, and that those bridges are starting to come back online. Even though the bridges are gonna start coming back online fairly soon, it’s still a concern for those roadways along that coastline. It’s gonna take some time for our teams to go out there and make the repairs for them to be passable.
Host: The barrier islands, what’s the situation there? What would be the best description of what’s going on there right now?
JC: Well, this storm is a lot different than what we saw with Hurricane Ian. Obviously we had a lot of wind damage, a lot of debris. This storm has brought the storm surge and that’s always a concern, especially when you’re dealing with a King Tide and high tide area. And we are definitely getting those reports of the water, the flooding from our municipalities, as well as from our teams that are out there looking in our unincorporated areas.
It’s going to take some time to make our way through, to finalize a plan for repairs where needed. We just ask for the community to please be patient as our team is doing everything they can to return on our community to normalcy.
Host: What do we know in terms of damage to homes at this point in Sarasota County?
JC: So, we’re still in that assessment phase. Our team was out there doing that preliminary damage assessment, also known as the windshield assessment, and they’re gonna continue that assessment as far as to see the levels of damage. We’re nowhere near the levels of damage that that occurred after Hurricane Ian, and we’re looking to have some information, some numbers and totals that we can share with our media partners later this week from the preliminary report.
Host: Power and electricity, more than 8,000 customers were out of power in Sarasota County as of 1pm. That’s more than twice as many as in Manatee, do you have any idea why that is?
JC: I know that our partners at FPL are doing everything they can to restore power. And these numbers, I think currently right now, we’re looking at about just over 5,000 community members that are without power. So FPL, we know that are working through the community diligently to restore service. But our numbers this go around are considerably lower than they were with Hurricane Ian. And all of our traffic lights fared fairly well. Our Public Works team did a great job assessing those intersections. We do advise that if someone were to come across an intersection where a traffic light is out, please be patient and treat it as a four-way stop.
Host: Do we know anything about Internet outages at this point?
JC: We’re not receiving any reports of massive internet outages, especially [unintelligible] deal with Hurricane Ian. We know that from from our connectivity with our municipalities, our local law enforcement and our partners that the connectivity is there. We have an incredible Enterprise Information Technology team that has been working right here, based out of our Emergency Operations Center to ensure that, as far as the county’s facilities is that connectivity.
So if someone is without power, is without connectivity, that they’re looking to maybe, you know, see a place, have an opportunity to get in some AC tomorrow and to have that connectivity. You know, I would say it’s the perfect time to really get to know your local library. And that staff is going to be there to greet you and to help you do that.
Host: Any other advice?
JC: We advise our our community members as we start to come back online and make every attempt to return to normalcy, you know, we learned a lot through Hurricane Ian. We just advise everyone to please be patient and to be kind to one another. It’s gonna take some time and some days to recover. You know, similar to Hurricane Ian, we had a difference in impact across our county from the South, which was impacted more greatly, than the North. Now our coastal communities are obviously, have more impacted than inland. So we ask our community members to please be patient as we focus in ensuring that our coastal community is safe to travel on the roadways, that we’re [doing what] we can to restore those roadways and to help them. So please be patient for, you know, the community. Please be patient and please be kind to each other.
Host: Jamie Carson, Communications Director for Sarasota County, thanks for your great work, and I hope you’ll get well-deserved sleep soon.
JC: You know what, we’ve got a few more days that we’re here to set up at the EOC and we’re here to support. There’ll be a time for rest, but we’re going to keep things going and we’re going to take care of everyone. Thank you.