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Local and state government officials urge Sarasota to prepare for Idalia

Written by on Thursday, August 31, 2023

WSLR Reporter Ramon Lopez was out and about after a state of emergency was declared on Monday, where figures like Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie and Senator Rick Scott urged the city to prepare.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: August 30, 2023


Official Transcript

Johannes Werner: WSLR reporter Ramon Lopez was out and about during the buildup of Hurricane Idalia. He ran across sandbaggers, an Emergency Management Director, a cop and a U.S. senator. Listen to his report.

Host: A state of emergency was declared for Sarasota and Manatee counties on Monday as Hurricane Idalia was expected to become a major hurricane. Locally, we were told to expect tropical storm force winds, storm surge of three to five feet, moderate flooding, rain and possible tornadoes, beach erosion and power outages. Government officials got in gear with emergency services, and local citizens grabbed shovels to fill sandbags, and otherwise get ready for yet another serious hurricane.

On Monday and Tuesday, sandbags were being filled at three self-service sites in Sarasota County, including the Ed Smith baseball stadium. Chris, a County Public Works employee, described the sandbag operation.

“Chris”: It’s the sandbag operation, you’ll have ten bags per household. We’re open here today until seven o’clock, we open tomorrow from seven till noon. We’ve been open for about 45 minutes so far, give or take, and we’ve been through about 800 to 1,000 bags so far. So we’ll see how the day goes. People start getting off work, we’re probably going to be a little bit more busier.

Host: Other counties have purchased machines to load the sand, but not Sarasota County yet.

“Chris”: We’ve been looking into one of the bag machines, we just haven’t been able to get one yet. We’re in the process.

Host: A woman who just filled 10 sandbags and loaded them in her car said rather safe than sorry.

Unnamed Citizen: Very concerned, very concerned. Because you never know. It could be, like, turn into Tampa Bay like it did when it turned into Fort Myers or Port Charlotte. You never know. I’d rather be safe than sorry. Every year I come here to get my sandbags. I wish they had machines because this is hard work. And you see the people, everybody needs them. So I wanted to be ahead of the game.

Host: Hurricane Ian hit Florida last September. The monster was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall at Fort Myers Beach. Ian was the costliest hurricane in Florida history, responsible for more than $112 billion in damages.

Ian took 156 lives, all in Florida. Storm surge was the deadliest hazard, claiming 41 lives with 36 of the 41 just in Lee County. Peak storm surge was 10 to 15 feet above ground level in Fort Myers Beach. Rich Collins, the Director for Emergency Services for Sarasota County, said a limited mandatory evacuation was needed because of feared storm surge.

Rich Collins: Out of an abundance of caution, Sarasota County is calling for an evacuation of their Level A, our Level A, in response to potential impacts from the storm.

Host: Collins said county evacuation shelters are now open.

RC: All 12 of our population hurricane evacuation centers will open at 8am, Tuesday August 29. Those coming to Sarasota County hurricane evacuation centers need to bring their own supplies including bedding, food, water, medications, activities for children and items for pets, including a crate, vaccination papers, a leash, food and water bowl.

Host: Rich Collins said you can hide from the wind, but you need to run from the water.

RC: Watch the storm tracks. Currently, we are on the very east side or southern side of the storm track. If the storm to tends to jog a little bit towards that, then we increase our surge levels. If you look at the watches and warnings right now, Sarasota County is in a tropical storm watch, or excuse me, a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning. We are right up into Longboat, just north of Longboat Key is a hurricane warning. So we’re right on the edge. If that storm moves that way and we see higher surge values, that would be very problematic on our carrier pilots in low-lying areas along the coast, hence the reason why we’re taking the Level A action that we are.

Host: Florida Senator Rick Scott was in Sarasota on Monday.

Rick Scott: So here’s your job: nobody out here can take care of you. In the middle of a storm, nobody can take care of you. When you have all this storm surge, nobody can come around. If you’re in a manufactured home, if you’re in a trailer park, if you’re in an area that needs to be evacuated during the storm, nobody can help you. So if you’re gonna stay, six, seven days with water, food, medicine, radios, you need to have all these things and you have to be you have to be prepared yourself.

My point is, look at what happened with Ian. We lost over 150 people because people didn’t evacuate. So this is an individual decision that you get to make. You can’t you can rebuild a life, you can rebuild a house. I want everybody, everybody, everybody to stay alive.

Host: Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie said preparation is everything.

Kyle Battie: This is about responsibility. Be responsible. These things are serious. It’s unpredictable, this is Mother Nature that we’re messing with. You can’t plan for the unknown, but you can prepare for the unexpected.

Host: Senator Scott visited Fort Myers Beach before coming to Sarasota.

RS: They’re still traumatized by what happened there, and you look at the loss of life there, and you still look at all the construction needs to be done. You look at what happened in Sanibel and the barrier islands there. I mean, I don’t think anybody anticipated that we would have storm surge there that we had anywhere in the state at the time. That’s why you got to, you know, you got to take this seriously.

Host: This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm