Manatee County issues voluntary evacuation notice for island

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Staging for the World’s Strongest Man contest at Manatee Public Beach comes down Nov. 11, as the event was relocated from Holmes Beach to the Feld Entertainment Campus. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
Gray skies and rough surf provide a “selfie” opportunity for a Manatee County employee Nov. 11 at Manatee Public Beach.

From Islander Staff Reports

Manatee County Emergency officials Nov. 11 issued a voluntary evacuation notice for residents of Anna Maria Island and other low-lying, flood-prone areas.

Anna Maria Island, at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, was in the southernmost edge of a tropical storm warning and storm surge warning by the National Weather Service, alerts that triggered local officials to take multiple steps to prepare the community.

Tropical storm winds associated with Eta are most likely to arrive today by 2 p.m. and last into the night.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge was closed to traffic.

Manatee Schools students were shifting to an e-learning schedule for the rest of this week, as two schools were being opened for public shelters of last resort. Manatee High School and Mills Elementary schools were to open by noon at limited capacity.

Public beaches were to be closed Nov. 11-12 as the parking lots of those areas became staging sites for sandbag distribution.

In addition to the two county sandbag sites, island residents could find sandbag options at Holmes Beach City Hall and Anna Maria’s Bayfront Park.

Manatee County public safety director Jacob Saur and emergency management chief Steve Litschauer said the barrier islands were most vulnerable to flooding overnight Nov. 11-12, when rains of between 4-6 inches were forecast to arrive, accompanied by storm surge of 2-5 feet.

“This afternoon conditions will rapidly deteriorate and it’s going to be a rough night,” Saur said at a media briefing earlier Nov. 11.

He continued, “Residents whose homes normally experience storm force winds should make alternate plans. Residents know their area best and they should make plans now. If they’re affected by surge or flooding they need to go to the home of family or friends outside of those areas. They don’t have to leave the county but they need to get outside of those areas that normally flood.”

Litschauer said, “The biggest concern with a public shelter this year is the potential spread of COVID-19. Shelter capacity is diminished so we cannot stress enough that the shelters must be a refuge of last resort.

Find somewhere else to go, if you can.”

County commissioners on Nov. 10 declared a local state of emergency in advance of the storm’s arrival.

Additional information:
• The COVID-19 testing site at the Bradenton Area Convention Center was to close at noon Nov. 11.
• All Manatee County Area Transit operations were to be suspended by 1 p.m. Nov. 11.
• The Island Branch Library in Holmes Beach was to be closed Nov. 12. The library already was closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.
• Robinson and Emerson Point preserves were closed Nov. 11-12.
• An Anna Maria commission meeting planned for Nov. 12 was canceled.
• Trash collections are expected to remain on schedule in unincorporated Manatee County.
• The World’s Strongest Man Competition scheduled this week at Manatee Public Beach was to be moved to the Feld Entertainment Campus.

For more information
For severe weather preparation information, go online to www.mymanatee.org/manateeready.
Sign up for emergency alerts sent straight to your phone at mymanatee.org/AlertManatee.
Residents can call Manatee County’s 311 Center to ask questions or receive information.

5 p.m. Nov. 11 update: Thirty county residents sought shelter at Manatee High School, but none arrived at Mills Elementary, so it was closed for emergency shelter purposes.

County emergency officials say there were only a few reports of localized flooding and standing water on roads of Anna Maria Island, but no major damages from Tropical Storm Eta occurred as of 5 p.m.

Tropical storm winds were forecast to continue into the night and most impacts from the storm would pass overnight.

Weather predictions called for 3-5 feet of storm surge, flash flooding and other marine impacts.