Anna Maria Island residents and emergency responders braced for evacuations before Hurricane Irma.
And they began Sept. 8.
The evacuation became mandatory for people in the A-zone, covering the entire island. Islanders were asked to head to safety on the mainland.
Before leaving, residents ran to city halls for sandbags and re-entry passes as some stores ran out of bottled water and pumps ran dry at gas stations. Some stores, including Publix Super Market, were able to re-stock before closing for the storm.
Meanwhile, island emergency personnel dealt with situation — and emergencies — armed with information and plans.
Watching the weather is a daily part of the job for Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman, who heads the 14 lifeguards and two paramedics at the mile-long Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and 400-yard stretch of Manatee Public Beach.
For Irma, he hoped people heeded the evacuation order.
Westerman said the marine division — with all responders ready for 24-hour storm rescue — topping off its equipment with fuel and storing food and water for a 24-36 hour response to emergencies and rescues.
Westerman called Irma “a massive storm,” “unpredictable,” adding “a few hundred miles” will make a difference in how the island fares.
West Manatee Fire Rescue Fire Marshal Jim Davis said the agency was preparing for extra shifts, generators, propane, food water and other supplies.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done,” Bradenton Beach Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz said, waiting and watching the models for the storm as Irma approached Florida.
“We put everybody on standby — the officers can be called in at any time,” Diaz said, adding the resources allocated will depend on the hurricane.
Holmes Beach dispatcher Robin Evangelisto was a calm and helpful voice Sept. 6 while answering calls to the HBPD.
She said HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer and Detective Sgt. Brian Hall were attending countywide meetings at the Manatee County Emergency Operation Center.
Tokajer said Sept. 9 after a briefing at the Manatee County EOC, Irma is a “serious storm, huge.”
WMFR and Manatee County’s marine rescue, as well as Sgt. Russ Schnering, who heads the Manatee County Sheriff’s substation in Anna Maria, and BBPD Lt. John Cosby also attended Irma planning meetings.