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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Island survives Frances, stung by backside

Anna Maria Island again dodged the proverbial bullet this past weekend when Hurricane Frances moved west from the Atlantic Ocean then northwest through Tampa and Pasco County and out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Then came the backside of the storm on Monday as the storm sent bands of tropical storm-force winds accompanied by driving rain out of the west-northwest through the Island, downing power lines, uprooting trees and shrubs, damaging a few roofs and flooding some streets.

"We survived the hurricane fairly well," said Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn. "It was only Sunday and Monday that we started to get bad weather."

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said winds at that city were clocked at 67 mph about 4 p.m. Sunday, with sustained winds of 54 mph for a brief period. Islandwide rainfall was slightly more than 6 inches. Bradenton Beach probably endured the worst damage, with two mobile homes in the Sandpiper Mobile Resort and two trailers at the Pines Trailer Park losing all or much of their roofs.

The roof was also torn off of the Bradenton Beach Fishing Pier restaurant and kitchen on Bridge Street. "We had massive damage there," Cosby said.

Power was knocked out around 2 a.m. Sunday morning in some parts of the Island. Winds knocked down a power pole and transformer at the Rod & Reel Motel in Anna Maria and, as of Tuesday morning, most of that city was still without power although it was promised to be restored by afternoon.

Bradenton Beach got power back Monday afternoon, while most of Holmes Beach electricity was restored late Monday or Tuesday morning. Power was still out north of 78th Street on Tuesday morning.

"All in all, we didn't have much major damage from the wind except for a lot of trees down and some vegetation and the transformer," said SueLynn.

There was flooding in the expected areas and Anna Maria Public Works Director George McKay worked Sunday to erect barricades to keep motorists out of the affected areas.

Some heavy beach erosion was reported along North Shore Drive, particularly in areas that were not part of the 2002 beach renourishment project. The house at 765 North Shore had its foundation exposed to the Gulf of Mexico by erosion.

"Nothing really happened until after the hurricane passed," the mayor observed. "In fact, the major problem was the sightseers. It was very frustrating as they clogged the roads and drove around barricades and through flooded areas, sending water back into the houses."

"Stupid," said Sgt. John Kinney of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office sub-station in Anna Maria.

"These people have been told to stay home and they're just out here sightseeing and making our job harder," he said, as he watched a horde of "tourists" walking the beach near the city pier being pelted by driving winds and rain.

He said there was little law enforcement could do to keep people off the Island in the absence of a curfew or mandatory evacuation. "All we can do is keep them off private property and we can't be everywhere. We can't stop people from driving around and being stupid."

Kinney said he routed several people from the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria who were on the property without permission.

Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar and the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach, said both properties seem to have survived the backside of Frances fairly well.

A radio report Monday said that the Beach House had been washed into the sea, but upon inspection, that was not the case, he said.

"Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated," observed Chiles dryly, and both restaurants were scheduled to be open today for business.

But the Island may have escaped the frying pan just to be placed into the fire. Hurricane Ivan is churning rapidly through the Caribbean on a west-northwest track that, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, would put Ivan between Cuba and Florida this Saturday on a northwest course for Florida.

"All we can do is watch and be prepared," said a weary SueLynn. "We should know something better by the commission meeting Thursday."

Hurricane watchers at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center were keeping a wary eye on Ivan, but said it was too soon for an accurate forecast.

Considering the numerous projections for Frances that were later changed by the NHC, they could only hope the same would be true for Ivan.

"All we can do is make decisions based upon the latest weather reports we receive," said Commissioner John Quam, the city's representative to the EOC.

Holmes Beach didn't have the "tourists" that Anna Maria appeared to get, said Mayor Carol Whitmore, but there were a number of people who congregated at the Manatee Public Beach.

"We ended up closing the beach because people were jumping off the pier into the surf," she said. Otherwise, the tourists appeared to go to Coquina Beach or Anna Maria.

Damage in Holmes Beach was similar to that reported in Anna Maria, with a few roofs blown off, some trees uprooted or cracked, and pool cages downed. Public works department crews were out on Tuesday cleaning up what they could, Whitmore said.

The greatest location of damage in the city apparently is the Beach Inn at 66th Street and the beach, which had part of its roof end up in the parking lot.

Whitmore added that Waste Management Inc. won't pick up garbage until Thursday, the scheduled day, but planned to haul yard waste today - as usual.

The mayor said Marina Drive at the Gulf Drive intersection was closed because winds kept knocking down the barricades, not because the storm had damaged the under-construction seawall along Marina Drive. "All in all, it could have been a lot worse."

It might be. Whitmore said the EOC will meet Thursday to discuss Hurricane Ivan and she plans on attending. "We'll see if we have to do this all over again."

After near misses from Charley and Frances, will the Island's luck hold or will the third time be strike three?

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