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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Deja vu again - another hurricane damages Island
Windy, wet, wild!
Anna Maria resident Erin Boyd used a wind measuring device Sunday to record winds as high as 48 mph at the Rod & Reel Pier. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy Click on image to enlarge

Like Yogi Berra said. "It's deja vu all over again."

Beleaguered Islanders and Florida residents battened down the hatches and boarded up the windows again this past weekend as yet another hurricane - this one named Jeanne - marched through Florida and threatened Anna Maria Island. It was the fourth such storm in the past six weeks to brush past the Island.

It's too much of a cliché to say "We dodged another bullet," but that's exactly what Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said.

"This one was a little closer and stronger, but didn't cause as much damage as Frances, probably because Frances cleaned out all the old trees and debris," she said.

"We lucked out," Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Dottie Poindexter said.

Jeanne almost caught Islanders napping. As late as Saturday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center in Miami was still forecasting Jeanne to come ashore near Melbourne, then move up the east coast.

But as Islanders have learned, hurricane forecasts can change quickly. By late Saturday evening, the NHC put Jeanne's track through the center of the state and through the night, kept moving its path to the west, directly at Tampa Bay. Eventually, Jeanne passed just north of Tampa, but brought stronger winds and heavier rains than Hurricane Frances just three weeks ago.

Surprisingly, there seemed to be less damage on the Island from Jeanne, but public works directors and mayors were still making assessments Monday and Tuesday.

"I haven't heard of a lot of damage," said Whitmore, adding that public works department staff were scouring the city on Monday inspecting damage.

There appeared to be less flooding than from Frances, and fewer trees and power lines down.

As of Monday, Sept. 27, she had not called Waste Management Inc. for emergency debris pickup. If WMI is not called in for an emergency pickup, today (Wednesday, Sept. 29) is the normal yard waste pickup day and residents should prepare yard waste normally.

"I'm only going to call them in if it's absolutely necessary. Our bill from Frances is more than $50,000," she noted, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency should reimburse the city for about 80 percent of that bill.

The same situation seemed to take place in Anna Maria, said Mayor SueLynn.

"We're still assessing damage, but at this point, we're not calling in Waste Management," said the mayor.

If no special pickup is ordered, WMI will haul yard waste on Thursday, but it must be bundled in the prescribed manner, SueLynn said.

Poindexter said Bradenton Beach workers were collecting trash in that city up until about 8 p.m. Saturday "so we cut way back on the amount of stuff that would blow around during Jeanne."

Some locations in Anna Maria, however, were still without power Tuesday afternoon, although Bradenton Beach was mostly spared any power outages. Most of Holmes Beach electric service was restored Monday.

A Florida Power & Light Co. spokesperson said the company was "assessing" outage locations throughout its service area and was bringing in emergency crews from out of state to deal with restoring power. A team of FPL trucks arrived on the Island late Monday afternoon and were dispatched to affected areas.

One North Shore Drive resident in Anna Maria said he reported a downed power line to FPL Saturday night, and was assured that they would fix the line before restoring power.

That didn't happen and when power was turned back on early Sunday morning, an electrical fire broke out in the man's back yard.

Fire trucks and personnel from the West Manatee Fire and Rescue station in Holmes Beach were called, but told the man they were unable to do anything because of the electrical nature of the blaze. Luckily, the fire burned itself out, the man said.

Probably the most extensive damage on the Island was in Bradenton Beach, where Jeanne tore the roof off the EconoLodge, 2502 Gulf Drive, for the third time in about 10 years. There was also damage to the Gulf View condominium, 100 block Gulf Drive North, according to Poindexter, and some tree damage. Beach erosion was also significant, she said, but was hopeful that the sand would migrate back to shore over time.

Manatee County officials closed Coquina Beach Tuesday due to extensive damage to trees in the parking lots, damaged lifeguard towers and "severe beach erosion."

After four hurricanes in six weeks, Islanders are now prepared for storm emergencies, but getting a little tired of all the hurricanes.

"These hurricanes are causing a lot of stress to people," said Whitmore. "I keep getting calls all the time asking when is this going to end and I can't answer them. People are getting stressed to the maximum."

Indeed, hurricane stress syndrome is affecting a lot of people, said psychologist Carol Greer Siemaszko of Perico Island Counseling Services.

"I've noticed a number of people talking about their stress level related to hurricanes. People are just tired of worrying about what's going to happen. Talking about the problem helps, but it would really help if we don't have any more hurricanes," she observed.

And Anna Maria Island has yet to feel the direct brunt of any of the four hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - that have struck Florida the past six weeks, and there are still two months left in the 2004 hurricane season.