Residents and business owners on Anna Maria Island are counting their blessings Thursday after Hurricane Idalia brought minimal damage to the island along the Florida Gulf Coast.
In several interviews with the Bradenton Herald, longtime Manatee County beach dwellers said Idalia brought the worst flooding they have ever seen, but many were lucky to escape water intrusion.
On the north end of Anna Maria Island, Joel Robosky raked seaweed from his yard and replaced furniture that the floodwaters swept across the street.
Robosky, an 18-year Anna Maria Island resident, rode the storm out in his home near Bean Point. Wednesday morning, he said floodwater threatened to enter his home, but the water receded without issue Thursday.
On the beach, the storm’s devastation was apparent. Idalia’s storm surge made the sand dunes look like marshes, flattening the humps along the shoreline that protected inland homes from intense wave action.
“It took years to build those up, but it’ll bounce back,” Robosky said.
Idalia’s fierce waves also washed marine life up on the shore. Sea urchins, starfish, seahorses and other small animals lined the beach.
Anna Maria Island residents took advantage of the beached sea critters Thursday by collecting their shells and bodies.
Residents say Idalia spared Anna Maria Island
Seven-year-old Elise Ohms held up a seahorse she found, which she hopes to preserve in her grandparents’ Anna Maria Island home. Speaking with the Bradenton Herald, Maggie Ohms, Elise’s mother, said their family also escaped serious water damage.
“There was water in the garage, but we were lucky because we’re elevated,” said Maggie, a German visitor who is staying with her parents on Anna Maria Island. “Some of the neighbors had minimal damage.”
Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer said his officers took an assessment and found very little damage around the city.
“We did good. It was close to how bad it could’ve been,” Tokajer said. “We were blessed, truly, as a community, that the storm did not come in directly to us.”
Anna Maria Island mobile home park residents, who were under a mandatory evacuation order, were also pleased to find their property intact when they returned home Thursday.
“When they tell us to get out, we go,” said Colleen Wisotzae, who evacuated her house in the Sandpiper Mobile Resort. “We were saying our prayers. We were really lucky.”
Idalia flooding posed main threat
Other coastal areas in Manatee County weren’t as lucky.
Friends and strangers alike are rallying around Everett Hodapp, who lives in sailboat that wrecked along the shore when Hurricane Idalia passed. Thursday morning, Hodapp’s boat rested along Australian pine trees with its sail knotted in the branches.
“This is my life. Everything I own is in that boat,” said Hodapp.
Cynthia Meyer, a friend of Hodapp, used spray paint to write a message on the shipwrecked boat on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway.
“God is good,” she wrote along the boat, which leaned onto the shore, exposing barnacles on the bottom.
Meyer has also started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help Hodapp purchase a new boat. She also thanked the strangers who have stopped by to offer assistance.
All nine rooms at the Anna Maria Motel Resort suffered water intrusion, according to Lori Calderone, who has managed the business for over a decade.
“Sandbags were up, but it couldn’t hold it,” Calderone said. “There was too much water.”
Over a foot of flood water entered the resort’s units, Calderone said, ruining appliances. Thursday afternoon, Calderone’s staff worked to remove water and get the business running again.
“It floods here all the time, but this is the worst I’ve seen it in 13 years,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Bradenton Herald also spoke with residents along Riverside Drive East, who stayed awake until 3 a.m. as Hurricane Idalia whipped past Bradenton. Storm surge from the Manatee River lapped against their home, entering the garage and the first row of the kitchen pantry.
“We were lucky. This is the worst we’ve seen it,” said Cristie Caseman. “The stuff in the pantry is replaceable. The house is not.”
As of Thursday afternoon, public safety officials across Manatee County have not reported any injuries or deaths linked to Hurricane Idalia.