SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
It has been three years since since Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. Irma was one of the strongest and costliest Atlantic hurricanes on record.
Irma became a hurricane and strengthened to a Category 5 in the Atlantic. At one point, Irma’s winds were 185 mph. Irma made five landfalls in the Caribbean before making a turn toward Florida. On September 10, 2017 Irma made landfall in Cudjoe Key as a Category 4 hurricane. As Irma continued having land interaction it allowed the storm to weaken a bit, however parts of the Suncoast still saw hurricane force winds, flooding and storm surge.
“Once we went out, we saw a lot of damage, a lot of trees had come down and on our block there were only 88 people affected, so we were kind of low on the totem pole," says Matt Gilreath, a Venice Resident.
Matt states he remembers the storm all so well. He says he was glad to have a generator at the time because he lost power for a week. During that week, he took the initiative to help neighbors who were in need.
“We just went out and we helped out neighbors. We had a grandfather who was watching after his grand kids and he didn’t have much food. So, I was like hey here’s that. It was really a community thing.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Sarasota County’s Emergency Management created almost one hundred improvements to keep Suncoast residents even safer.
“We made a transportation plan for people who don’t drive cars, to have a transportation dependent process with rally points and even a way to register to be picked up at your home with your supplies and your pet crate and taken to the evacuation center.”
Preparation was key for residents who were concerned that Irma would leave behind devastating impacts to their property. While many residents decided to go to a shelter during Hurricane Irma, Emergency Management says that if a hurricane were to hit this year during the pandemic there is not as much space to work with, so it’ll be wise to look to go to a friend or family’s house and to use a shelter as a last resort.
“A lot of people came here from all over the place when Irma hit. So, we ended up sheltering 20,000 people and 3,000 pets. That is four times the amount that we have ever had here in Sarasota County.”
Although Irma didn’t directly hit the Suncoast, it left behind several inches of standing water on roadways. It was a reminder of mother nature’s powerful elements that comes with any tropical system.
September 10 is also the peak of hurricane season and with Paulette and Renee brewing in the Atlantic, there are multiple disturbances that could develop over the next couple of days.