Johannes Werner: Manatee County was harder hit than Sarasota by Hurricane Idalia. Even though there was no landfall, the intense storm surge closed many bridges throughout the county. Sophia Brown talked to emergency management in Manatee.
Host: Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend early this morning as a Category 3 hurricane, but the effects first began hitting Manatee County last night. The worst may be over, but many streets in the Manatee area are flooded and currently unusable, and there are still some in shelters waiting to hear when they’ll be able to return home.
Just like Sarasota County, Manatee County issued a mandatory evacuation for Level A areas on Monday, which includes coastal areas and anyone living in mobile homes or RVs. Voluntary evacuations were also issued for Level B and three of the 26 shelters in Manatee County opened their doors, one in Palmetto and two in Bradenton. Many of the county’s services won’t reopen until tomorrow morning.
Just as the National Hurricane Center predicted, the Sarasota-Manatee area did not face any direct effects from Hurricane Idalia, but storm surges and flooding have impacted the region, from Anna Maria Island and Holmes Beach to more rural areas like Rubonia in the northern Palmetto area. As of this afternoon, waters were continuing to rise.
Steve Litschauer, the Deputy Director of Public Safety and Chief of Emergency Management for Manatee County, told WSLR News how important it is for Manatee County residents to stay off the roads as they continue to evaluate the damage, and especially to not drive at night.
Steve Litschauer: We want to make sure the public is heeding to our warnings of road closures because if you can’t see the road itself, it’s unsafe, because you don’t know if it’s washed out. Likewise, you [don’t] know in some areas, whether there’s power lines down or anything else, but it’s just unsafe to drive in flooded roads.
Host: By visiting the website mymanatee.org/weather, residents can see which roads have been marked red to show they are officially closed, and which are marked orange for hazardous conditions and should be treated with extreme caution. At the time of this broadcast, the Skyway Bridge and bridges and causeways leading into Holmes Beach and Anna Maria Island remain closed, and nearly the entire island has been colored orange, along with many roads in Cortez and along the shorelines of Bradenton and Palmetto, brought further inland along the Manatee River.
It isn’t certain how long it will take for these roads to become usable again. While Litschauer says that he has received reports of waters beginning to recede, it could still take a day or two.
Power outages are another major problem. By about 2pm earlier today, around 3,500 homes in Manatee County were without power, although this number is expected to shrink throughout the evening.
There were also many Manatee residents still in the three shelters across the county, who are waiting for reliable transportation or for the roads to clear out before they can safely head home. Luckily, Litschauer said he doesn’t think they’ll need to be there for longer than one more night.
SL: We’re in the process of trying to close them down. There were about 500 people total of the shelters, and they’re in probably way less than 100 now. And they should be closed within the next 12 to 24 hours.
Host: Compared to Hurricane Ian last year, the Sarasota-Manatee area seems to have gotten lucky, but that doesn’t mean that residents shouldn’t stay alert. For more information visit mymanatee.org/weather or dial 311.
This has been Sophia Brown reporting for WSLR News.
Sunday, March 3, 2024
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