Did Anna Maria Island’s beaches survive Hurricane Ian? ‘Zero loss,’ county says

Tiffany Tompkins/ttompkins@bradenton.com

In good news for beach lovers and sea turtles, it appears that the postcard-famous beaches of Anna Maria Island survived Hurricane Ian’s wrath very much intact.

The storm’s path through Southwest Florida was at one point anticipated to bring extreme wind and surge conditions to the barrier islands of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Ian’s shift south brought a major reprieve for Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, though the islands still saw some significant damage from the storm.

On Sunday, Manatee County parks staff said that the terrain of the county’s beaches was virtually untouched by Ian.

The county government reports that measurements from 25 different sites along the coastline revealed there was “essentially zero loss” of sandy beach areas, both in width and depth.

Even the sea turtle nests remain, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker noted in a news release.

“During my post storm inspections, I was excited to see those turtle nests still intact. That was a great visual indicator!” Hunsicker said.

Bayfront Park in Anna Maria and Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach have already reopened to the public, while Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach remains closed due to debris.

Other areas more directly in Hurricane Ian’s path were not so fortunate. In Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, near where Ian made landfall with wind speeds of 150 miles per hour, beaches were destroyed. Ian also ravaged beach infrastructure throughout the hardest hit areas of Southwest Florida. Some bridges, causeways, piers and roads were heavily damaged.

In Manatee County, beaches are the backbone of a tourism industry that was estimated to generate over $1 billion in 2021.