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Anna Maria Island dodges Hurricane Ian’s bullets

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Hurricane Ian inflicted significant damage on some mobile homes in Bradenton Beach, but Anna Maria Island as a whole survived the hurricane without the widespread devastation many feared.

On Monday, Sept. 26, Manatee County ordered a mandatory evacuation of all three Island cities, to be effective the following evening. A drive around the Island just before sundown on Tuesday evening revealed many boarded-up businesses and homes and a mostly deserted and evacuated Island.

Residents, business owners and others were allowed to return to the Island at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning,

Manatee County restored water and sewer service to the Island on Friday morning, but as of late Saturday afternoon, most of the Island remained without electrical power.

In Bradenton Beach, power was restored to the Bridge Street area and the residential area south of Bridge Street on Friday night. The power in those areas went out again Saturday morning and was then restored to some locations.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief John Cosby said the power outage that occurred after the power was initially restored was due to a switching device catching fire and needing to be replaced.

With the power partially restored again, the Drift In bar in Bradenton Beach was the first Bridge Street establishment to reopen late Saturday morning.

“With everything that’s happened in the past few years, including COVID, my team needs to work,” Drift In Manager Doreen Flynn said shortly after the reopening. “I feel sick thinking of all those people who were not as lucky as us.”

As of late Saturday afternoon, several other Bridge Street businesses remained without power or closed for other reasons.

Assistant General Manager Shannon Dunnan said the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar had power and hoped to reopen early Sunday afternoon.

Island Time General Manager Michael Davis said they did not yet have power as of Saturday afternoon and hoped to have a soft reopening on Monday and be fully reopened on Tuesday.

Bridge Street Bazaar owner Jake Spooner said his business remained closed on Saturday afternoon because there was no power. The Daiquiri Deck also remained closed on Saturday.

Bradenton Beach

On Thursday morning, Bradenton Beach Police Chief John Cosby provided The Sun with a damage assessment.

“We started operations at 3 o’clock this morning and we had the team fully operational by 5 a.m. We did good. The only real damage we had to our city facilities was the police department roof was leaking. The worst damage is in the two trailer parks where some roofs and carports were blown off. We also had some damage to a condo on the 600 block,” Cosby said.

Unlike past storms, none of the live-aboard boats south of the Bridge Street Pier broke free and struck or damaged the pier or floating dock.

“The pier and floating dock did good,” Cosby said. “We’ve got two boats missing, one boat down and one boat – we don’t where it came from – leaning against the bridge. There’s no damage to the bridge and FDOT’s been notified.”

“The cell tower is damaged. It got hit by some flying debris that left some good-sized dents in it. I don’t know if it’s operational or not. Our cell service is terrible right now, so it may have been disrupted,” Cosby said.

Cosby said there was a lot of tree and landscaping debris to clean up, but the main roads had already been cleared by the city’s public works department.

“We had no major power lines down, so that should make it quicker to restore power. Right now, we do not have any power, water or sewer; and we have no idea when those are coming back,” he said Thursday morning.

Cosby noted the county and FPL were dealing with significantly worse damage in eastern Manatee County.

“The east side of the county got destroyed. When the storm went over that way, it was a Cat 2/Cat 3. They were rescuing people off roofs this morning,” he said. “The county’s got a lot to take care of. Hopefully, we can get the utilities up as fast as we can, but I think it’s going to be a while,” he said.

When asked about the city being reopened to those who wished to return, Cosby said, “We’re allowing them to come back. If they want to stay, they can, but there’s no power, no water and no sewer.”

Holmes Beach

When contacted later that morning, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said, “We had minimal damage – some trees and limbs. Power’s out. We have no water yet. We have no Spectrum connectivity.”

He also said, “Full access to Holmes Beach through Manatee Avenue was opened at 10 o’clock this morning. Once the Island was deemed an evacuation zone, we limited the number of people that returned to public safety personnel, but we never raise the bridges and we never stop people from leaving the Island.”

Tokajer reflected on what could have been had Hurricane Ian not taken an unexpected turn to the south, including catastrophic damage to the Fort Myers/Sanibel Island area.

“We were truly blessed. The damage and devastation we’re seeing to the south is what we were expecting as a direct hit to our area. It’s truly daunting to see the devastation that happened down there – and to see what a true storm surge looks like in real life, instead of just projections,” he said.

On Friday, traffic coming into Holmes Beach on Manatee Avenue was being detoured south on East Bay Drive because a fallen power pole was leaning on the metal pole that holds the traffic signal.

Anna Maria

When visited in his generator-powered city hall office early that afternoon, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said, “We did good. We didn’t take a direct hit. If we had, it would have been devastating for our city. We had a lot of trees down and several wires down, but we have most of that cleared. The city’s without power and water. I have no idea when utilities are being restored. People can come back but it’s not real comfortable without water and power.”

The exterior skin of the Anna Maria cell tower had a large tear in it, but Murphy said he wasn’t aware of any significant structural damage that occurred within the city, other than one home having its front door blown off.

“The only significant problem I see is turned over port-a-potties at construction sites. Several contractors picked theirs up, but one contractor didn’t bother to tie them down or pick them up. That’s a problem and a health hazard, and that’s something we put in our construction checklist,” Murphy said.

In 2017, the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma led to the City Pier being closed and later replaced. When asked how the new pier fared during its first hurricane, Murphy said, “Our new pier held up fine. There’s no structural damage at all. It was built right. I was concerned – like a father whose daughter goes on her first date.”
Anna Maria residents JoAnn and Anthony Manali chose not to evacuate and rode the storm out at their home and business, Captain Anthony’s Stone Crab Store.
“I was scared and I’ll never do it again. It was worse than I could have ever imagined,” JoAnn Manali said of that experience.

On Friday morning, Murphy was advised that it could take another four or five days to restore power in Anna Maria.

On Saturday, Murphy said the storm debris removal efforts were already underway and storm recovery updates and information were available at the city website.

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