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Date of Issue: September 17, 2008

Ike inundates Island with water

With the sunrise Sept. 10 signs went up near North Shore Drive in Anna Maria, where high tide, heavy rain and waves associated with Hurricane Ike left streets under water. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
A walker takes shield behind an umbrella on the Anna Maria City Pier Sept. 10.
Water slows traffic on Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach Sept. 10. Many roads held water early that morning, though officials said that didn't deter many morning commuters.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers ship nearly floated on water Sept. 10.

The ship, a land-loving motorized vessel on wheels, was seen in the midst of rising floodwater caused by heavy rainfall at an above-normal high tide early Sept. 10.

The outer bands of Hurricane Ike, passing about 300 miles to the west in the Gulf of Mexico, drenched Anna Maria Island with 2.5-4 inches of rain, and over-filled the Tampa Bay-area basin.

The National Weather Service reported that winds in the area were as high as 30-40 mph during the day on Sept. 10 and then diminished considerably Sept. 11, with Ike farther west in the Gulf.

Both days, Ike-related tides on the Island were 2-3 feet above normal, causing beach erosion in areas that already suffered losses with Hurricane Gustav a week earlier.

With the high tide and heavy rain, numerous streets were flooded in all three Island cities.

In Anna Maria, high water forced the closure of sections of North Shore Drive and Bay Boulevard. From the Rod & Reel Pier, which was closed early Sept. 10, waves could be seen crashing against the same bayside seawalls that took heavy hits from Gustav’s distant fury.

Other roads, especially at Anna Maria’s north end, were under water, as much as a foot in some locations.

“I hope it is all right to walk in,” Dianne Merriwhether said as she trudged in a pair of flip-flops through the water toward the Anna Maria post office.

In Holmes Beach, long sections of Marina Drive were flooded, as well as arterial streets, as water overflowed from canals and spilled from stormwater ditches.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s front lawn became a temporary pond, attracting numerous egrets, herons, gulls and even two pelicans and a roseate spoonbill at mid-day Sept. 10.

At different times through the morning, Holmes Beach police officers helped direct traffic through and around the high water.

“This might be the only day someone could be envious of a driver in a Hummer or Land Rover,” said Annie Grant, as her Camry stalled in a high-water area on Holmes Boulevard.

Bradenton Beach streets also held high water, especially the roads nearest the bay at the city’s north end.

“I don’t remember it being this bad,” observed Henry Ohlson as he walked his dog near the Sandpiper Resort mobile home park. “The cities ought to put out ‘No Wake’ signs for cars.”

Island residents from the north to south and east to west speculated that floodwater in their neighborhood was higher than previously witnessed or that stormwater drainage systems were ineffective.

At the Manatee Public Beach, a discussion about Ike’s Island impact escalated to a shouting match between an Island resident complaining about poor stormwater drainage and a vacationer from Miami.

“We pay these fees for stormwater drainage and then we get a big rain and we can’t get our cars out of our driveways,” complained Islander Carl Junger.

Junger’s comment outraged vacationer David Moyers of Miami, who countered, “You know you live on an island, right? Some water in the streets is nothing to cry about. I’ve known two people who died in hurricane flooding.”

Island officials said inclement weather tends to generate hyperbole, but that the rain combined with the above-normal, day-long high tide caused some exceptionally high water on the barrier island Sept. 10.

The cities, however, did not report significant damage from flooding, waves, wind or rain, which also caused minor flooding on the mainland in Manatee County.

Both the Manatee and Braden rivers overflowed in areas, and in Cortez, residents reported that a squall hit at about 9 a.m. Sept. 10, causing punishing weather for boaters who rushed to tie up at Cortez docks, and sending waves rolling over decking.

“I was up early and looking out my lanai windows just as the sun came up,” said Ellen Jacobs, a resident of the Cortez Trailer Park. “At that point the rain already blocked out the lights from the Bridge Street pier, which is directly across from me. The rain continued and became very, very heavy.”

Gustav produced perfect surf, bringing board riders from throughout the state and attracting many beachgoers, but Ike’s Island impact proved stormier, drawing fewer people to the beaches.

“The waves are too hard,” said surfer Keith Becker of St. Petersburg. “I thought the surfing would be better than this.”

Mostly, boaters also kept off area waters, heeding an advisory from the U.S. Coast Guard about dangerous conditions.

Other areas of the Florida Gulf Coast felt the impact of Ike as the hurricane headed toward Texas, building strength.

Meanwhile, with more than two months remaining in the Atlantic hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center continued to monitor for storms. “Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 48 hours,” NHC reported on Sept. 11.