SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – It’s been nearly six weeks since Hurricane Ian ripped apart countless communities in southwestern Florida, including parts of southern Sarasota County.

Debris from the storm is still scattered in some of those neighborhoods and it is a growing concern as another named system, Subtropical Storm Nicole, continues inching closer to Florida.

Sarasota County and its contractors have collected more than 1.8 million cubic yards of vegetative debris and more than 10,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris so far.

At Lazy River Village in unincorporated Sarasota County, there are still massive piles of debris throughout the neighborhood that haven’t been picked up yet. A few weeks back, residents in the neighborhood contacted 8 On Your Side for help after they say they were told the county couldn’t collect the debris because the mobile home community is considered a private, commercial property.

Over the weekend, the community received a positive update from county officials.

“On Saturday, we met with Sarasota County and the debris removal crews that they contract with and they have committed to removing the debris from our community,” said resident Richard Donelson. “We have a tentative date of Nov 10, which is Thursday.”

County officials shared the following update with 8 On Your Side Monday.

On Oct. 17, Sarasota County petitioned FEMA to expedite and approve the county to conduct debris removal in specific Mobile Home Park (MHP) communities, considered commercial property because of the health, safety, and dangerous conditions from the debris. 33 MHPs in south county were identified and prioritized as being in the area most impacted by Hurricane Ian and were included in the petition to FEMA. 

Sarasota County staff escorted FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Florida Department of Emergency Management to Lazy River Mobile Home Park to conduct an on-site assessment and issues approvals, if the damage meets FEMA designated criteria.

Sarasota County met with Lazy River Co-operative members on Saturday, Nov. 5 to review their MHP Right of Entry form, verify insurance and indemnification and collect and review identification requirements which are submitted to the state for review and finalization by FEMA.

During the visit, Solid Waste staff and debris contractors toured the MHP to determine and evaluate equipment needs for debris removal and right-of-way access. Following state and FEMA approval of document requirements, the county will begin debris removal efforts.

As a side note, “FEMA is assessing the [33] MHPs and may deny the county to conduct debris removal based upon FEMA’s definitions of extensive or catastrophic damage. MHP communities that have not been approved by FEMA should work through their insurance for debris removal by a licensed and insurance contractor.

Residents at Lazy River hope the process begins before impacts from Subtropical Storm Nicole reach the area, but are unsure how the storm will impact the timeline.

“I am sure that we will get some remnants, possibly some wind and probably a lot of rain. We are hoping that the winds won’t blow this debris around too badly,” said Donelson.

Sarasota County Emergency Management continues to actively monitor the storm, while Solid Waste staff works with contractors to continue debris pickup as planned.

For now, county officials say debris should remain at the curb, but if the situation changes, they said they will share updated information on how residents should secure loose debris.