Hurricane Irma has passed Anna Maria Island without the feared storm surge, allowing islanders to take their first deep breath after a tense few days.
Bridges to Anna Maria Island opened Monday at 3 p.m., and lines of people, some who had waited since early morning and managed to remain mostly civil to each other, streamed to the Island to survey the damage.
They found that power is out in some places in Anna Maria. Power lines were downed by trees and trees were downed by Irma, some toppling over from the roots.
Bright House cable is down, so most have no television or Internet.
Most traffic lights are out, with drivers treating the intersections as four-way stops and waving each other through.
Water is running, but a boil water notice is in effect on the island until further notice, probably within a day or two, according to Manatee County Emergency Operations officials, who ask that you limit water usage if your power is out, because sewage may back up as some lift stations are without power.
Beaches are covered with seaweed, but erosion appears minimal. The National Weather Service predicted before Irma hit that up to 8 feet of storm surge would wash over flood zone A, which includes the Island, but it did not happen.
People all over the world have offered encouragement to Anna Maria Island residents on The Sun’s Facebook page.
We made a storm joke on Facebook that when everyone evacuated the Island, it rose a foot and perhaps was a bit safer from storm surge. One or two people took the jest seriously, but most saw that it was a stress relief post. Sue Hummel Cinka said, “To AMIS… probably the best way to handle stress, laugh in its face… your humor came at just the right time.”
A short while later, we posted a photo of the Rod & Reel Pier gated shut, with a message, “Godspeed AMI. We will see you on the other side.”
More than 23,000 well-wishers and friends responded to the post to give us hope, many recalling their memories of Anna Maria Island vacations and many more sending prayers.
Locals told each other to stay safe, checked on where they were riding out the storm and encouraged each other that they would help rebuild the Island.
A surfer from South Carolina sent good vibrations. A reader quoted Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, just keep going.” Another reader from England told us to “Keep calm and carry on.”
They told us to fight back. They told us to hang in. They told us things would be different in the morning.
And they were. After the storm passed, Barbara Irving in Devon, UK, wrote, “Hope you are all okay there on AMI, been worrying about you all night.”
When we found power and a wireless signal, we reported that Irma had veered east of the Island. Dave Barker posted, “Best news I’ve heard all day.” Patricia Golden said, “Thank goodness, was very worried for you all and that little paradise.” Mary Pat Walsh gave us pause with her post, “So glad to hear you didn’t experience the devastation that some endured.”
People helped each other out on Facebook, like the friend suggesting that someone get resident tags to get back onto the Island before the next storm, Hurricane Jose, which everyone on Anna Maria Island is watching closely as it is heading towards the east coast of Florida.
FEMA has declared Manatee County a disaster area. If you have damage, register at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or www.disasterassistance.gov.