Sarasota cleaning up tornado debris from waterways

The work will last for the next few days

SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) – A fleet of boats is combing the waterways in Sarasota, fishing out tornado debris.

One week after a tornado touched down, rubble and junk are floating on the Intracoastal waterway, threatening boats and wildlife. So it’s vital to get it cleaned up. But it’s quite the challenge.

Jane Grogg, the neighborhood services manager for Sarasota County said, “There are some big pieces of buildings that we know we have not seen yet. So we are looking for those.”

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Across the Intracoastal waterway and tucked in the canals you’ll find damage, debris, and leftover destruction.

RELATED: Duette tornado kills 2, injures children

The county dispatched six boats and 20 workers to safely get it out. The county partnered with some private companies to help complete the project. Deputies were also out monitoring to make sure boaters stayed clear of the debris.

Brett Blackburn, an ecologist with Reef Ball said, “It’s difficult and it can be dangerous because of the material itself. The aluminum structure itself can cause cutting, laceration hazards. We can have punctures and stabs from the broken pieces of wood, and plastic siding out there can be very, very tough on your body.”

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The torn metal and exposed nails can shred boats. So it’s important to remove everything quickly. Some of the debris out there is quite easy to spot. But there’s also more debris that not so easy to see – that’s the junk that’s lying on the bottom of the water. And so as crews are out here they’re going to be marking some of that debris with GPS and if it’s considered hazardous, they’ll send divers to take it out.

All that debris not only harms boats, it can harm the ecosystem.

RELATED: ‘Debris ball’ appeared on radar after tornado hit Manatee mobile home

Blackburn said, “As time goes on, it’ll begin to move back and forth in the water column, and it can cause even greater damage which can cause even greater environmental impact.”

It’s difficult yet delicate work and they expect to have it finished within the next few days. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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