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The CNC produces journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties for about a dozen media partners including newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines.

DeSoto residents relieved at Idalia’s mild local effects

A tarp on the damaged roof of a home.
Sarah Owens
/
Community News Collaborative
Tarps on homes and businesses in Arcadia have been around since Hurricane Ian blew through the Arcadia community in 2022.

Shelters largely served those still dealing with 2022 damage from Hurricane Ian.

Eleven months after 2022’s I-named hurricane, Ian, devastated DeSoto County with wind, rain and river flooding, Hurricane Idalia’s relatively light effects came as a relief this week to residents, many of whom are still dealing with nearly year-old damage.

Idalia landed Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend region but still managed to deliver storm surge flooding to coastal communities in Sarasota, Manatee and others as far south as Lee County.

Arcadia received just under nine inches of rain from Idalia along with some gusty winds, according to DeSoto County's Emergency Management Director Rick Christoff. Unlike the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Christoff said the town dealt with minor amounts of flooding this go around.

Some roads flooded but drained quickly. The bulk of the damage from Idalia was likely to affect those with unrepaired Ian damage. Christoff said he had not heard reports of new major damage as of Thursday afternoon.

Standing water on a street in a residential area.
Sarah Owens
/
Community News Collaborative
Standing water on Mills Avenue in Arcadia quickly drained following the end of Hurricane Idalia’s rainfall. Nearly nine inches fell.

The town on Tuesday opened both a general-needs and special-needs shelter, largely as refuge for those in still-damaged homes. Eric Hamilton, coordinator at the Turner Center general-needs shelter, said 19 people checked in and left by noon Wednesday. The special needs shelter had no visitors.

“With only three people showing up from the time we opened to 10 p.m., I kind of expected that might be all we get,” Hamilton. “And then as the storm got a little worse and more announcements on the news, more people decided to come in with their families, and most of them were in trailers or damaged houses.”

Hamilton said one man said he feared losing power, cutting off the use of his CPAP machine.

Of Arcadia’s population of nearly 7,700, about 1,500 lost power at some point. By Wednesday, all power in DeSoto County had been restored. By contrast, shelters remained open for weeks after Ian as the Peace River, swollen by so much of Ian’s rain upstream, overflowed its banks.

Hope DeSoto recently conducted a needs assessment, where about 40 people met face-to-face with counselors to see what aid could be available. The long-term recovery group estimates that nearly a third of the county’s residents still need help.

Christoff said that while Ian was the first hurricane he experienced in Arcadia, he was aware that past storms had resulted in the community both asking for and providing help along with outside sources. He said the turnout for those seeking help after Ian seemed to decrease.

Instead, he noted that the people of Arcadia are resilient, and the community seemed to look inward for help this time, though many are still living with damages due to the end of FEMA assistance or issues with insurance. Some may also be scared to ask for help for reasons such as their legal status or for fear of having their family separated.

“We’re not concerned with any of that,” Christoff said. “We just want to help as many people as we can.”

Those needing assistance can reach out to Hope DeSoto at https://www.hope-desoto.org/ to request assistance or visit https://bit.ly/3ElHEDm for more resources.

Both Christoff and Sondra Guffey, Director of the Turner Center, said that after dealing with Ian and Idalia, they are better prepared to handle future hurricanes, and they now know what steps need to be taken to help the community prepare for and recover from these storms.

Sarah Owens is a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. She can be reached at slowens@cncfl.org.

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