Almost $135 million the latest estimate for residential property damage in unincorporated Sarasota County

As of Oct. 12, 155 homes reported to have been destroyed

Over the past week, the estimate of residential property damage in the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County grew approximately 32%, based on the latest data that the county’s Planning and Development Services Department provided to The Sarasota News Leader through a public records request.

As of late afternoon on Oct. 12, Planning and Development reported an estimate of $134,902,037. On the afternoon of Oct. 6, the figure was $102,407,720.65.

Additionally on Oct. 12, the Planning and Development staff noted that damage to public property from Hurricane Ian had been put at $942,999 as of that time.

The residential report added that 155 homes had been destroyed; 958 had suffered major damage; and 1,886 had experienced minor damage. Altogether, the data showed, 4,399 homes had been affected in some way by the hurricane, based on the inspections staff had undertaken.

The Oct. 6 data noted that 98 homes had been destroyed, with another 551 having suffered major damage and 1,165 having experienced minor problems.

Contracted crews making progress with storm debris

In regard to collections of Hurricane Ian’s storm debris, county Communications Department staff reported that, as of the morning of Oct. 13, the county’s contractors had picked up 250,255 cubic yards of right of way vegetative debris in the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County.

The work began on Oct. 6, a county advisory noted.

In staff’s initial report, issued on Oct. 8, the total number of loads documented was 455, with debris adding up to 23,637 cubic yards.

Two days later, on Oct. 10, the load count had grown to 2,016, with the debris amount noted as 101,414 cubic yards.

Staff has offered these recommendations to facilitate the process:

  • Maintain your drains — Ensure that your roads and storm drains are clear of debris. It is important to keep debris out of ditches, roadside swales and storm drains. Debris can block drainage, causing flooding and degrading water quality.
  • Place your pile — Make sure that your debris pile is easily accessible to the contractors, away from vehicles, telephone poles, fire hydrants, street signs, light poles, mailboxes, or anything that could be damaged during collection.
  • Bundle and bin it — Place smaller debris such as leaves, moss, and twigs in bundles or trash bins. (See more details below, from a County Commission discussion with the county’s Solid Waste Department director.)
  • Sort and separate — Keep trash and other items, such as smaller debris, away from your storm debris pile.

Additionally, staff emphasized in the advisory, “Burning of any storm debris is prohibited in the County Code and can adversely impact the community’s air quality and create nuisance conditions. Burning debris should not be performed.”

Staff is updating collection zones as it receives more information. To find out when a particular neighborhood can expect a storm debris contractor’s first appearance, check this link:

All debris may not be collected in one pass, depending on how full the truck is, access to debris, and other issues, staff stresses.

Three “free public drop-off sites” are available for residents to self-haul and self-unload vegetative storm debris, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily, staff also emphasizes:

  • 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Sarasota.
  • Rothenbach Park, located at 8650 Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota.
  • Jackson Road Transfer Station, standing at 250 S. Jackson Road in Venice.

To use a public drop-off site, an individual must show proof of county residency, staff advises.

Solid Waste Department director addresses storm debris 

Following the Oct. 3 County Commission public hearing on the 2022-23 fiscal year budget, commissioners asked Brian Usher, director of the county’s Solid Waste Department, questions about storm debris compared to regular yard waste.

First, Usher stressed that commercial debris is not eligible for pickup by the contractors the county has working to collect the remains of trees and other landscaping materials blown down by Hurricane Ian.

A “monitoring contractor” has to check each storm debris load, Usher pointed out, to ensure that only eligible materials are included. Otherwise, he said, the county cannot get a federal reimbursement for the collection.

“Every load is tracked as closely as possible,” Usher added.

Moreover, he stressed, residents should not put storm debris in bags, and the contractor’s crews will not pick up an entire tree.

“I’ve seen full-length trees out at the curb,” Commissioner Ron Cutsinger said.

Commissioner Michael Moran noted that he had seen about 30 construction debris bags of storm debris at just one home in his neighborhood.

“We cannot communicate enough on this,” Commissioner Christian Ziegler told Usher, because he also had seen many people violating Usher’s edicts.

In response to further questions, Usher suggested that residents who have used bags for storm debris open them up and dump the materials in the storm debris pile at the curb. If a resident has gathered up small leaves and grass, he added, that should be placed at curbside for the normal yard waste collections handled by Waste Management crews.

Usher has stressed in the past that the county has to pay extra for workers to unload bags of yard waste at the landfill; therefore, he has proposed that a future County Code amendment eliminate the use of such bags. Commissioners acknowledged at the time that they would discuss that recommendation at a later date.

When Ziegler asked Usher on Oct. 3 whether commissioners should tell people to cut their bags of storm debris and leave the materials at the curbside, Usher responded that if the residents want it collected as part of the storm debris removal effort, that would be the best option.

“We expect to make more than one pass” in each are of the unincorporated parts of the county, Usher also noted, so residents have time to take the necessary steps to ensure their debris from Ian is organized in accord with the collection requirements.

He further noted that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the storm debris collections totaled 300,000 cubic yards. Ian produced about 1.5 million cubic yards, Usher pointed out.

Florida Power & Light Co. update

As of nearly midday on Thursday, Oct. 13, the News Leader learned from Florida Power & Light Co.’s “Power Tracker” website that 4,225 customers in the county remained without power.

The company has a total of 289,706 customers countywide, the website noted.

Sarasota County’s total still awaiting return of electricity was higher than the figure for any other county where FPL provides service, the list showed. Charlotte County, for example, had only 1,051 FPL customers remaining to get their electricity back, while Manatee had 294, Lee had 673 and Collier had 583.

Counties typically do have service providers besides FPL. For example, Lee County has its own Electric Cooperative. When the News Leader checked that organization’s website just before noon on Oct. 13, a rotating message in red at the top said, “Rest assured that we know where power outages occurred and are working diligently to restore power.

Statistics from the Peace River Authority

During the Oct. 11 Sarasota County Commission meeting, Chair Alan Maio, who also chairs the board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, provided statistics that Authority staff had given him about the effects of Hurricane Ian.

The Authority’s members are Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. The organization provides drinking water to more than 900,000 people, as its website notes. “We also have connections to other water systems for emergency situations,” the website points out. Those are the City of North Port, the City of Punta Gorda and the Englewood Water District.

During the peak period of rainfall produced by Hurricane Ian, the Peace River flow was 79,000 cubic feet per second, Maio told his commission colleagues this week.

“You’ll say, ‘Al got that wrong,’ ” given the size of that figure, he noted; however, he explained, thinking that he had written the number down incorrectly from Authority staff, he checked back to be certain.

Then he repeated the number: “79,000.”

The Authority’s reservoirs and its aquifer storage and recovery system (ASR) always are topped off at the end of the rainy season, Maio pointed out. That usually is around the end of September.

Their capacity, the Authority’s website says, is 13 billion gallons of water.

Therefore, Maio added, none of that flow from Ian’s rainfall could be captured for use during the dry season. Instead, it went right to Sarasota Bay.

Maio also noted that Sarasota County saw more than 16 inches of rainfall over 24 hours, while the City of North Port experienced rainfall of more than 23 inches in 24 hours.