The management team from Hurricane Hanks in Holmes Beach was hanging outdoors Sept. 12, munching lunch on a sunny mid-afternoon.
They weren’t working.
They were waiting.
Waiting for Florida Power & Light Co. to plug their business into the electric grid.
The casual Holmes Beach pub, 5346 Gulf Drive, was without power two days post-Hurricane Irma, as was a great deal of the island at the time. FPL reported Sept. 15 it had restored power to most island customers.
Owner Brian Mathae said Irma blew out the lights at Hurricane Hanks about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 10. He smiled even while relating all food in the walk-in cooler and freezer had been lost.
“We’ll reopen as soon as power is restored,” Mathae said. “We’ll restock with next-day delivery.”
Hurricane Hanks reopened Sept. 13
The rest of the group sitting around the table shared their storm stories.
“Never lost power at my house,” said co-manager Ben Conlon.
Shingles torn from his roof resulted in a minor leak inside, he said.
Liquor store employee Jay Alexander said his evacuation to Orlando was “easy, breezy.” His hotel even had room service.
Co-manager Mary Ellen Murray evacuated to Gainesville. When she returned, her home was dark.
“It took five hours to reach Gainesville and the line was moving the whole time,” she said. “There was gas all along Interstate 75.”
Martin Annis, a friend who helped board up Hanks before the storm, said he evacuated to northwest Bradenton, but his haven lost power. His own home apparently never lost power.
“I should have stayed,” he said.
Overall, Holmes Beach did not sustain a great deal of damage, according to Police Chief Bill Tokajer.
Some homes have structural problems, some trees and power lines are down, too, he said.
“If trees are in the roads, it’s not because we haven’t gotten to it yet,” he said two days after the storm. “It’s because they are tangled with power lines and need to be professionally removed.”
A tree was uprooted at the Starfish Shack vacation condos, 7504 Gulf Drive, but did no damage as it fell.
Not so at 121 49th St., where three palm trees fell like dominoes on a roof.
By Sept. 13, Tokajer said the recovery was making progress. Power had been restored at Holmes Beach City Hall and the police department after being out three days.
“We are working to get everything working,” Tokajer said.
City clerk Stacey Johnston said Sept. 13 issuing permits will be slower than usual until internet access is restored.
“We can’t do receipts and don’t have the internet for web mail,” she said. “We’re just putting stuff back together and working through it.”
By Sept. 14, city hall was back online.
Tokajer praised islanders for dealing with the storm’s stresses.
“I think people did very well,” he said. “They left when they were told to.”
FPL’s power problems on Anna Maria Island and elsewhere had no fast solutions because of the magnitude of the outage.
FPL estimated 5 million customers lost power Sept. 10 when Hurricane Irma blew through. Five days later, FPL reported lights were back on for 3.2 million customers.
FPL services 184,900 meters in Manatee County and 263,800 in Sarasota County. FPL did not have numbers available for Anna Maria Island meters.
The utility company employed a record workforce of 21,00 to restore its infrastructure.
Eric Silogy, FPL president and CEO, said all 27,000 square miles and 35 counties it services were affected by Irma’s devastation.
Restoring power to hospitals, police and fire stations, communication facilities, water treatment plants, transportation providers and shelters were the top FPL priority.
By Sept. 15, five days after the storm, FPL reported power had been restored to more than 97 percent of all high-priority facilities, including all hospitals, emergency operations centers, air and seaports, correctional facilities and military installations.
Priority No. 2 was powering all supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and community services.
Infrastructure serving smaller numbers, such as Anna Maria Island, was done next.
“I think they are doing a fine job,” said Tokajer, who noted his home was still dark three days after the storm. “They are out there working. I also know there’s a lot of impatience going on.”
The chief advised keeping perspective on the recovery.
“We expected a Category 3 or 4 hurricane,” he said. “As a community, I believe we were truly blessed compared with the Keys or Naples. Losing power for a few days is not as traumatic as it is for other people who are just hours from us.”