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Date of Issue: December 10, 2008

Sandpiper cleans up after storm

Property owners, passersby and the press gather on Second Street in Bradenton Beach Dec. 2 following an early morning storm.
A cleanup takes place Dec. 2 in the Sandpiper Resort Co-op, which was hit with high winds from an early morning storm that blew in off the bay.
Fire officials walk along the perimeter of the Sandpiper Resort Co-op, where high winds damaged property but caused no injuries and all units were habitable.
A cleanup takes place Dec. 2 in the Sandpiper Resort Co-op, which was hit with high winds from an early morning storm that blew in off the bay.
Steven Graham, a resident of Sandpiper, shot this early morning photo of some wayward storm-strewn aluminum caught on a flagpole following an early morning storm Dec. 2.

Sandpiper Resort residents cleaned up Dec. 2 following an early morning storm that ripped roofs from mobile homes and dropped siding into the bay.

The damage from the storm brought crews of emergency personnel and teams of reporters and photographers to the park in the 2600 block of Gulf Drive North near the boundary with Holmes Beach.

Sandpiper resident Sheila Romas awoke at about 1:45 a.m. to the sound of heavy rain and wind.

She said she thought, “I like a nice storm,” and went back to bed.

When she got up later that morning, she stepped outside and noticed that two potted plants outside her mobile home were tipped.

“Raccoons,” Romas said she first thought. Then she realized that critters could not be responsible for the damage at Sandpiper.

Down the street, a roof had been ripped from a lanai and dropped on another residence.

Sheets of aluminum jutted from the bay at low tide.

Bits of glass and wood were strewn about the street and covered driveways.

Twisted screen doors hung at odd angles from homes and patio chairs were found wedged under cars, lying in streets and floating in the water.

“I thought there was a tornado,” Romas said.

So did Sandpiper resident Dannie Raines — a small tornado or a water spout, he said.

“It was around 1:45 a.m. that the wind picked up,” Raines said, as he stood outside his residence looking at damage to a mobile home he had just sold the day before.

“Thunder and lightning,” he said. “And my house really shook. It only lasted about 10 seconds.

Raines said he heard a sound like a freight train, a description that usually characterizes a tornado.

The National Weather Service office in Ruskin said a tornado did not touch down, but that winds gusting at 40-50 miles per hour hit the Sandpiper.

By mid-morning, a lot of debris was cleared from the park and emergency officials were finished with their initial investigation of the incident.

The Bradenton Beach Police Department officers were the first responders. A city public works department crew also went to the park, as well as Mayor Michael Pierce. Two city commissioners live in the resort — John Shaughnessy and Bob Conners.

West Manatee Fire Rescue District firefighters responded to make sure no fires broke out as a result of the damage. Florida Power & Light dispatched a crew to the park, as did Verizon.

WMFR’s Kurt Lathrop, a deputy fire marshal, said the district had worked with the Sandpiper on some electrical improvements that possibly minimized damage.

“We worked with the park,” he said. “They went through and got all their electrical cleaned up last year. So when we came through this morning, we knew what we were turning off.… There was no fire.”

One resident said she saw a “circle of fire” during the storm, which Lathrop said might have been debris hitting a power line.

“There was some aluminum wrapped in the power line, which probably created a pretty nice light show,” he said.

Lathrop also observed that Australian pines, which could have crushed homes, had been cleared from the area,“There could have been a lot more significant damage,” he said.

As Lathrop walked through the park, 19-year resident Linda Talbot pointed out the damage to her home. She pointed to broken window glass, shards of glass on the ground, dents in a shed and a hole in her siding.

The wind, Talbot said, drove a piece of metal into her home.

“It looks like a bullet hole,” she said, running her finger on the jagged puncture.

Talbot said in her years at the Sandpiper she’s experienced a number of incidents — flooding, heavy rains and wind gusts.

This time her home suffered minimal damage.

“My angel didn’t even fall down,” she said, referring to a small statue set outside her door.