SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) — Sarasota County had its largest storm response in recent history during Hurricane Ian. County officials say lessons learned during Hurricane Irma years earlier helped in their efforts.
The county had over 2,200 employees with responsibilities throughout the storm. Over a period of days, it provided citizens with 50,000 cases of water, 35,000 bags of ice, 40,000 meals, 15,000 tarps, and transported nearly 1,000 people to hurricane evacuation centers. In all, Ian cost the county about $162 million, about $80 million in debris alone.
For most parts of the county, the storm is now a distant memory. However, for some in harder hit areas in south county, there are daily reminders of the storm days away from its one-year anniversary.
“We have citizens across this county especially in the southern half, I think as of today, around 150 that are still living in some type of state or FEMA-supplied housing. A year later, Hurricane Ian is not gone, it is not over. There are people still struggling to get work done on their home, still working through their insurance agencies to get work done,” said the county’s Emergency Services Director Rich Collins.
In Harbor Cove in North Port, residents are still working to recover. The tight knit community has come a long way in rebuilding, but the work continues.
“We had over 500 homes that were damaged to some extent and over 120 that were total losses. We are still knocking down homes today, there are still some homes that are being knocked down this week. Three-fourths of the community was impacted by Ian,” said Harbor Cove Property Manager Tom Fastiggi.
Patricia Lane considers herself one of the lucky ones. She suffered significant damage during the storm, but she says so many others were left with nothing and forced to leave the state and their homes behind.
She has made many repairs to her home in the last year, but the work is still not finished.
“I shouldn’t even think about feeling sorry for myself, but you do. You have your good days and you’re bad days and when you get word that somebody is actually going to do something for you, you’re just ecstatic and then when they call and say sorry, there are parts didn’t come in or something you hit another low,” said Lane.
Fastiggi believes it will be another year before the community is back to normal. However, he says they’re more prepared than ever should another storm hit the area.
The community has two new diesel generators, plus plenty of sandbags, tarps, ropes, and other storm-related supplies ready to go.