Sarasota County officials worried about storm surge

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Emergency officials in Sarasota County are especially worried about storm surge. Low-lying coastal areas are at risk for rising floodwaters and experts warn that people can be killed if they’re not careful. 

Longtime residents will tell you Lido Beach is nowhere near as large as it used to be. Over the years, erosion has chewed away at this coastline.

“[Irma is] coming, it’s just about how bad it’s gonna be,” said longtime resident Carl Shoffstall.

Shoffstall is worried. He says this beach can’t handle much more erosion.

“There is no protection right now. When this water comes in, it’s coming on the street and in the parking lots and into buildings,” said Shoffstall.

Sarasota County emergency officials warn that depending on Irma’s path, the area could face anywhere from one to 15 feet of storm surge.

A mandatory evacuation has been put into effect for coastal communities.

“Most deaths, as you saw in Houston, occurred from drowning in floodwaters or storm surge. We want to avoid that. There’s no excuse for drowning in storm surge when we provide warning,” said Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane.

“We ask that nobody try to ride this out. I have personally been on search and rescue missions when I worked for the state of Florida, and we found people that didn’t make it, and the ones we found that did make it, all of them said without exception, ‘I’ll never do that again,’” McCrane added.

Boat owners are tying up their vessels at Marina Jack’s. On Lido Beach, massive specialized barriers are being installed in front of condos to keep out any water.

In St. Armands Circle, business owners are taking no chances.

James Condrack has owned Little Bo-tique on the circle for 47 years. On Friday, he and his grandsons were installing plywood in front of the windows.

“This is a one in a lifetime storm, so we gotta be prepared,” said Condrack. “Always nervous, but you just keep going, that’s all you can do.”

Shoffstall is evacuating off the island. He’s worried about what he’ll find when he returns to Lido Beach.

“We have no margin for error here,” said Shoffstall.

Despite the mandatory evacuation order, there will be no enforcement planned at this time to make sure everyone is gone from these coastal communities.

Officials urge coastal residents to take this seriously and don’t ride out this storm.

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