ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The Island escaped serious property damage from Tropical Storm Eta, however, a life was lost.
On Wednesday evening, longtime local insurance agent Mark Mixon was electrocuted at a home he was working on at 211 Bay Drive N.
According to Bradenton Beach police, Mixon was killed while standing in about 3 inches of water in a storage room with a washer and dryer. A friend tried to pull him out of the storage area, but felt electricity surging through the water and called 911. By the time FPL turned off power to the area, emergency workers declared Mixon dead.
Elsewhere in Bradenton Beach, the storm also sank six sailboats. Three sailboats and a dinghy sank alongside the floating day dock next to the Bridge Street Pier. Joined by the dinghy that became lodged in one of the dock’s roller brackets, two sailboats sank at the east end of the floating dock. One of those sailboats lies partially underneath the Bridge Street Pier and small area of the pier’s TREX composite decking was damaged and now requires repairs or replacement.
The floating dock survived mostly unscathed, with one underside float coming loose and some minor exterior damage to the dock’s eastern edge.
One sailboat sank next to the new police department boat lift at the west end of the floating dock. The police boat and the boat lift also came through the storm unscathed.
The floating dock and the east end of the Bridge Street Pier, including the T-end, were closed Thursday morning and remain closed until further notice.
A large catamaran sank in the waters just south of the pier. Another large sailboat came to rest near the city-owned dinghy dock near the Bridge Tender Inn. The last section of the dinghy dock is also missing.
Another sailboat sank alongside and below the Cortez Bridge, near the Bradenton Beach Marina. Marina President Mike Bazzy said it was not known whether that vessel came from the Bradenton Beach or Cortez side of the Intracoastal Waterway. Bazzy said all the boats docked at the marina survived the storm with little to no damage.
At 7 a.m. Thursday morning, Mayor John Chappie and Lt. John Cosby were already evaluating the sunken vessels and the damage to the pier.
“The floating dock held up well. The boat lift held up well too,” Cosby said.
When asked about removing the sunken vessels, Cosby said, “We’re going to have to get these out quickly and we’ll go from there. We’ll have to see what funding becomes available. The boats are privately owned, so that’s some sticky ground with FEMA – they don’t like to take care of private property.”
The city typically relies on West Coast Inland Navigation District grants for the removal of derelict, abandoned and sunken vessels in the unmanaged waters south of the pier. The city may have to absorb the initial cost to remove the sunken boats from the floating dock and dinghy dock and hope to recover those costs later.
Cosby also mentioned two structure fires that he said did not appear to be serious.
One of the new palm trees installed in the roundabout at the east end of Bridge Street lay toppled and blocked a portion of the roundabout, but the tree was righted and standing upright again by mid-day. Cosby said he wasn’t aware of any other downed trees or downed power lines elsewhere in the city.
Some of the mobile homes in the nearby Pines Trailer Park experienced flooding and some Bradenton Beach residents who live elsewhere in the city noted on Facebook that they experienced flooding too.
As the morning unfolded, a steady stream of vehicles proceeded through the standing water along Marina Drive, near the Island Branch Library and Holmes Beach City Hall. The water there appeared to be at least a foot deep, if not higher.
When contacted at 9:40 a.m., Police Chief Bill Tokajer provided an assessment of the storm damage in Holmes Beach.
“We had some serious flooding in some areas. We had more rain than we have seen in quite some time. In some areas, the water was as deep as I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It was really deep on Marina Drive in front of the police department. It was deep further down on Marina Drive and on Gulf Drive toward Haley’s Motel,” Tokajer said.
“It was deep going around the bend by the beach. Sixth Avenue was bad, and Avenue B and C had some flooding. I think a lot of it was because of the high tides combined with all the rain. A lot of docks and marinas had water over the edge too,” Tokajer said.
“We didn’t have any injuries. We had quite a few people who got stuck or drove into a ditch. And we had one tree down off of 51st and Fifth that was blocking the road,” Tokajer said.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Gulf Drive provided a much drier route through the city than Marina Drive.
Although he was still assessing the damage Thursday morning, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy believed the city fared well and sustained little damage. He said there had been some power lines that went down on the north end of the city and there was still street flooding in the general vicinity of Bean Point.
A drive through the city late Thursday morning revealed North Shore Drive covered with standing water near Bean Point. There was a substantial amount of standing water covering North Bay Boulevard between Jacaranda Road and Alamanda Road.
Significant street flooding was also present at and around the intersection of Gladiolus Street and Poinsettia Road.
Murphy said the new City Pier did not appear to suffer any damage during the storm.
At 10 a.m. Thursday morning, Manatee County Information Outreach Manager Nick Azzara conducted a virtual tropical storm update and press conference via Zoom videoconferencing. Azzara was joined by several county staff members who provided information specific to their departments.
County staff reported no significant damage throughout the county and said most of the damage was limited to flooding, fallen trees and tree limbs, power outages and boats that sank or ran into something – including one boat that collided with a bridge on the Manatee River and now requires removal.
Emergency Management Chief Steve Litschauer said 30 people took shelter at Manatee High School and left the shelter Thursday morning. He said no one took shelter at Mills Elementary School in Palmetto, so that shelter was closed at 5 p.m. Wednesday evening.
Azzara said wind gusts of up to 60 mph were reported in Manatee County and approximately 8 inches of rain fell in the most heavily rained upon areas that included the coastal regions.
Litschauer said slightly fewer than 3,000 people lost power during the storm and as of 10:12 a.m. Thursday morning, 1,136 power outages remained throughout the county.
Azzara said the county beaches on Anna Maria Island would remain closed for the day and reopen Friday morning. He said the same about the Island Branch Library in Holmes Beach.
The Manatee County School District decided later in the day that all public schools would reopen Friday morning for in-person learning, as opposed to being limited to virtual learning only as originally planned before the storm arrived.