While the sounds of the roaring winds troubled some, most of East Manatee County was spared major damage after Hurricane Irma sailed overhead.
"East Manatee survived beautifully," East Manatee Fire Rescue Lt. Brian Kalnbach said.
First in-teams scanned Manatee County at daybreak, clearing roads of any debris that would hinder traffic. According to Kalnbach, there weren't any reports of tornadoes.
Hundreds of residents poured out of Gene Witt Elementary School on Monday morning after a night plastering winds and rain. Rosa Lewis pushed around an empty dog stroller as she worked on gathering her things, hoping she would return to her University Parkway home and see the roof still intact.
"If it's still on, I'm good," she said.
Lewis, her 25-year-old daughter Jordan and her 2-year-old Maltese Matzi rode out Hurricane Irma at the shelter. She said her son died in a car accident and her husband lost a battle with cancer.
"I thought of staying (at home) and I said, 'No. I'm not going to lose another one," Lewis said.
They tried to go to a few full shelters before finding Witt around midnight Friday.
"All the dogs in there, we were like in Noah's Ark," she said. "But it was beautiful to see how everybody came together. We didn't care about the noise or the smell sometimes. It was more about, 'Is everybody safe? Is everybody comfortable?'"
Anthony Walker, who recently moved to East Bradenton from Rhode Island, and his mother-in-law Rhonda McClain came to Witt Elementary on Saturday morning. They also didn't know what they would return to.
"My friend that's still there, he boarded himself in his house, he's only saying like a couple of feet (of water)," Walker said. "We just won't know. If anything, worse comes to worse, we'll have to come back to the shelter."
At the Windsong Acres subdivision on State Road 64, Daryl Haworth and his neighbors stepped outside into temporary sunshine to observe what damage Irma had brought.
"I would have to say the biggest fear was the fear of the unknown," he said. "You have no idea what's going to happen. The next thing was the house was boarded up, you couldn't see too much outside."
But the first review of the neighborhood relieved their concerns.
"You see all the leaves and the branches and you knew right away it wasn't that bad," he said.
Haworth's parents, Georgene and Darrel, came up from their home in Marco Island only to stay at the Witt Elementary shelter. Irma made its first landfall at Cudjoe Key and its second on Marco Island.
"Actually, their house is up for sale and they were going to move in with us," Haworth said. "We don't know what we're going to go back to down there."
Jim and Jean Luttrell stood on their front stoop and watched with relief as Hurricane Irma swirled and roared but failed to deliver a monster punch to il Villaggio, an East Manatee community built especially for retired missionaries.
“We’re very, very thankful,” Jean Luttrell said Monday morning, picking fallen leaves off her Prius parked in the driveway.
The couple lived in Nalcrest, Fla., in 2004 when Hurricane Charley slammed their neighborhood, ripping shingles off of 400 apartments. All but one had their roofs replaced.
“This time it was really fun,” she said. “Charley was much worse.”
She did suffer one loss: Irma prematurely plucked the sole grapefruit from Luttrell’s tree in the backyard.
“I was praying, but it’s down,” she said.
Bradenton Herald Herald Washington Bureau Lesley Clark contributed to this story.