Florida Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon visited the Centre Lake subdivision Wednesday morning to tour two homes that had flood damage and assess possible steps by the state.
Koon visited Lee County before stopping in Manatee on his way back to the Capitol. Farther south, some of the neighborhoods were still inaccessible because of floodwaters.
A low-pressure system lingered in Southwest Florida since Aug. 23, covering parts of Manatee County with about 23 inches of rain before crawling up to the Carolinas, according to National Weather Service forecaster Dustin Norman.
Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue crews were called out Saturday evening to help people out of their homes in the Centre Lake subdivision, southwest of the intersection of Tuttle Avenue and 63rd Avenue East.
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“Basically, our fire crews were able to wade through that water and get out to those residents for them to gather a few items and then bring them back and arrange transportation away from this incident,” Southern Manatee Hazmat Capt. Mike Bloski said.
Sixty-three homes were affected and 26 people had to be evacuated as of Sunday, according to the weather service. Greg E. Morovits, 61, was found dead late Sunday near his wheelchair in a flooded Sara Palms subdivision street, about two miles north of Centre Lake.
Bloski said a high volume of rain in a short period combined with the lake in the middle of the subdivision, and poor drainage into the Pearce Canal likely contributed to the flooding.
“We’re working with Manatee County right now to understand the scope of the situation and understand what programs this flood might qualify for,” Koon said.
One of those programs could include the Small Business Administration Program, which provides small loans from the federal government. But he added he doesn’t expect a need for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Koon said county public safety officials responded well to the flooding and haven’t yet needed state resources to deal with the cleanup.
“All the counties in Southwest Florida surely understand this threat ... They are used to these kind of events,” he said.
Cathleen Larson helped sift through furniture and toys that had been damaged in the flood at her daughter’s rental home. Piled on the curb outside of the home on 65th Avenue Circle East was a mattress, a child’s chair, a dry-erase easel and a teddy bear.
“Catastrophic. Everything is gone,” Larson said. All that was salvageable sat in a pickup truck — a dining room table and two bar stools. The clothes, toys and Disney DVDs for her grandchildren, ages 11 and 7, were destroyed.
Around midnight Saturday, Larson got a call from her daughter that thigh-high water was coming into their house. Her own home, just two houses down, was safe and dry. She waded over to Ali’s home and carried helped carry her grandchildren to safety.
“We’re pretty much left with the shirts on our back until we could get back with kayaks on Sunday to get the pets,” Larson said.
Selma Swensk is also relying on the Larsons’ kindness, as her rental home was flooded, too. She had renters insurance, but it doesn’t cover floods.
“I saw that flood they cover, but not flood that damages the house, but like if something was in the pipe internally, but not external,” Swensk said.
Since there are three more months left of hurricane season, Koon said the time to get flood insurance is now, as it takes 30 days to go into effect.
“I don’t want anyone to go through any unnecessary pain because they didn’t have a flood insurance policy,” he said.