County and city crews assessing damage in aftermath of Eta’s rain and winds

Flooding reported through the night of Nov. 11 on numerous city streets, including areas of Lido and St. Armands keys

County staff works to clear sand off a portion of Casey Key Road on Nov. 12 as waves continue to crash in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Nov. 12, the day after Tropical Storm Eta battered Sarasota County with winds gusting up to 52 mph and flooded streets, City and County of Sarasota crews were out assessing damage, Ed McCrane, Sarasota County’s emergency management chief, and the city of Sarasota staff reported.

“Overall,” McCrane said during a Facebook Live interview, “the significant rainfall that we got affected many buildings,” both private and public. County employees were dealing with leaks in some county facilities, he added.

A Nov. 12 City of Sarasota news release noted that county staff had reported that parts of the city received more than 6 inches of rainfall on Nov. 11.

Part of McIntosh Road near the Bahia Vista Street intersection, just east of Pinecraft, is underwater on the morning of Nov. 12. Image courtesy Sarasota County

County damage assessments could be completed before the end of the workday on Nov. 12, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester told The Sarasota News Leader. If not, he added, they were expected no later than Nov. 13.

The city announced in a news release that it is asking residents to report any flood damage that their homes may have sustained as a result of the storm.

Flooding of any residential structure may be reported by emailing FloodInfo@sarasotaFL.gov, the release said. “City staff may be available for a home assessment to document the damage and answer questions,” the release noted.

This is flooding at the intersection of Gulfstream Avenue and Cocoanut Avenue in Sarasota about 8 p.m. on Nov. 11. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department via Twitter

“The information will be used to assess the community’s flood risk for future storms and help the City develop its overall strategy of flood mitigation programs, projects and measures,” the release explained. “The documentation could also be used to determine the homeowner’s eligibility for state or federal disaster funding if it becomes available.”

“Significant road flooding was observed in some areas, particularly on Lido Key,” the release said.

In response to a News Leader question, Genevieve Judge, the Sarasota Police Department’s public information officer, wrote in a Nov. 12 email that no major damage had been found in the city as of mid-afternoon. She drove around Lido that day, she added, to check on the area, noting that that was where the city had most of its high water.

Beginning in the afternoon of Nov. 11, Sarasota Police officers tweeted numerous video clips and photos that showed the flooding on portions of Lido Key. At one point, officers warned motorists away from Benjamin Franklin Drive, which was underwater between the Lido Pavilion and Ted Sperling Park, on the southern end of the island.

Water floods Benjamin Franklin Drive on the landward side of the Sandcastle Resort on Lido Key on the afternoon of Nov. 11. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department via Twitter

A Police Department video tweeted just before 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 also showed flooding at the intersection of Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41; southbound traffic was being directed onto Sixth Street. The northbound lanes of the intersection were passable, the tweet noted, but water was flowing into the area.

About 9 p.m., the Police Department closed Siesta Drive just east of the north bridge to Siesta Key because of high water.

Then, just before midnight on Nov. 11, tweets showed flooding on St. Armands Key, as officers announced that the Police Department was allowing only residents and emergency traffic on and off that island.

Just before 3 p.m. on Nov. 11, county Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant warned the public that the section of Manasota Key Road at Blind Pass Beach Park was under 1 to 2 feet of water and had been closed to traffic at the Charlotte County line.

The road was open again on Nov. 12, Grant wrote in an advisory to the news media that morning.

Part of Manasota Key Road is flooded on Nov. 11. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Additionally, as of 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, county staff reported that North Casey Key Road was closed from the 300 block to the 600 block. Water outages were planned from 9 p.m. Nov. 11 to 9 a.m. on Nov. 12, affecting residents between 2209 Casey Key Road and 1620 Casey Key Road. “We’re encouraging residents to fill water jugs for use during the outage,” the advisory added.

In an email he sent to the county commissioners at 7:21 p.m. on Nov. 11, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis explained that staff would be shutting off the water on part of Casey Key “to help protect the road in case the [county water] line breaks.”

In early June, Tropical Storm Cristobal shattered a section of North Casey Key Road, necessitating emergency repairs. In that incident, the affected portion of the road was between the 500 block and the 700 block.

County Engineer Spencer Anderson stands on North Casey Key Road during the Facebook Live interview on Nov. 12. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Staff has been working for a couple of years on a strategy to pay for more permanent repairs to the road and a potable county water line in an area often threatened by erosion resulting from storms.

On the morning of Nov. 12, County Engineer Spencer Anderson said during a Facebook Live interview with county Communications Manager Jamie Carson that staff members were concerned about a few spots on Casey Key overnight because of the wind and rain from Eta. Fortunately, he said, the road remained intact, although staff was clearing debris from it in various areas.

In the vicinity of 2120 Casey Key Road, Anderson continued, severe erosion had been reported.

Overall, he said, based on preliminary assessments, county roads appeared to be in “really good” condition after Eta’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico.

Anderson further noted that the county’s Public Utilities Department staff was working to re-establish water service in the section of Casey Key affected the previous night. In the meantime, he said, a “boil water” notice was in effect.

On the morning of Nov. 12, the Sarasota Police Department tweeted that a few boats had washed ashore. One crashed into the dock at Hart’s Landing during the storm, a tweet noted. Marine Patrol officers were working to remove it and tow it to Centennial Park.

A sailboat lies against the dock at Hart’s Landing in the city of Sarasota. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department via Twitter

Weather stats

A News Leader check of National Weather Service (NWS) reports on Nov. 11 at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport showed a 52-mph wind gust was recorded at 4:53 p.m. On into the night, the NWS reported gusts in the mid-40 mph range. The first wind gust over 30 mph was reported at 10:53 a.m. on Nov. 11, based on the NWS records; that one was 41 mph, with the wind out of the east.

After midnight, the winds gradually calmed from the 30-mph level to 10 mph just before 9 a.m. on Nov. 12.

The wind direction shifted from the east to the southeast just before midnight on Nov. 11, the reports show. By the morning of Nov. 12, the wind was out of the southwest.

The largest amount of rain the News Leader saw in the reports was 2.44 inches, recorded at 6:53 p.m. on Nov. 11. Earlier, 2.03 inches was reported at 12:53 p.m.

After the storm

During the Nov. 12 Facebook Live interview with Media Relations Officer Winchester, McCrane of Emergency Management cautioned people cleaning up after Eta to be wary of standing water, as that can be a repository of “fire ants and other critters” that can cause harm to humans.

Further, McCrane warned people to be careful if they plan to use chainsaws and similar equipment to deal with downed limbs and debris, especially if they are not experienced in such work.

As of 10 a.m. on Nov. 12, Eta is leaving the Jacksonville area and heading toward the Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy National Hurricane Center

As he talked with Winchester, McCrane pointed out that Eta was exiting the state just off Jacksonville and appeared to be headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. McCrane added that, as of that time, weather forecasters saw no signs that the tropical storm would threaten any part of the East Coast.

As of 1 p.m. on Nov. 12, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that Eta was moving north-northeast at 15 mph with maximum sustained wind of 40 mph.

Further, the NHC noted that a new tropical wave was located over the central Caribbean Sea. That likely would develop into a tropical depression within the next couple of days, the NHC report added.

McCrane pointed out to Winchester that this has been a unique hurricane season, as 2020 has broken a record already with the number of storms. “It’s not over yet,” McCrane stressed.

The formal finale to hurricane season is Nov. 30, he added, but the 2005 season saw a storm develop that lingered into January 2006.

McCrane also pointed out, “These storms are unpredictable. … Mother Nature has a mind of her own.”

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