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NORTH PORT | City leaders make changes based on lessons learned from Ian

North Port Ian
Posted at 7:27 AM, Sep 28, 2023

NORTH PORT, Fla. — As many communities remember the devastation from Hurricane Ian, cities are also looking at the lessons learned from the destruction.

The City of North Port, like many other areas, suffered damage from widespread flooding and winds.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Jason Yarborough, Assistant City Manager.

He sat in the Emergency Operations Center with a view of the storm from the City Hall's windows.

As the sun came up on Thursday, Yarborough started to hear about the impact Ian left behind.

"We got reports into our public safety team about people being up in their attics and that’s a really scary situation," he explained.

They were stuck because of flooding. North Port got 22 inches of rain during Ian.

Around three days later, more water came in from the Myakka River. It reached a record-breaking flood stage at 12.8 feet.

One of the only ways to get through the water safely was by boat. First responders and strangers came with airboats and small ones to rescue people.

The flooding cut off access to areas like I-75 and main corridors.

Price Boulevard had major flooding throughout the city. At the four points where it goes over water, Yarborough says each one washed out. It took nearly a month to fix them all.

"Seeing it broken up like peanut butter brittle from the storm at the four crossings was just in awe," he said.

Yarborough says Ian has them reflecting on what they can do better next time a storm comes through.

"When you have something like Ian, it shows the Achilles heels for your infrastructure and some of your emergency response processes," he explained.

Price Boulevard was slated to widen before Ian. Now, the city is rethinking things.

"We’ve gone back to the drawing board for Price and re-engineered those four water crossings so they will be more resilient and tough and handle something like Ian in the future," Yarborough said.

Another concern the city has discussed: the Emergency Operations Center.

Yarborough said the power went out and the generator failed, leaving the city with major communication issues.

"We’ve got almost a $2 million new generator in place and about to go online in the next few weeks," he said.

The assistant city manager admits all the improvements the city wants to make will not be immediate.

"The processes are easier to fix, but the infrastructure takes money and time and design," Yarborough said.

He says he wants people to know the community is not forgotten, the seven killed in North Port are not forgotten and the ways neighbors helped neighbors during a time of need will surely always be remembered.