St. Petersburg Residents and Visitors Return To The Beach After Irma

Sep 12, 2017

Residents and visitors of Pinellas County's barrier islands were asked to evacuate early Friday morning. Monday afternoon, they were allowed back to the beach. WUSF's Cathy Carter went to St. Pete Beach Tuesday to talk with people about their experience over the past several days. Here are some of their voices. 

Audrey Simpson:  “I'm from Scotland. We've been here for eight or nine days and we were evacuated on Friday. It was a bit scary. We were in a hotel and when the power went out in the evening obviously we couldn't use the elevators. I felt a bit concerned because of the elderly people who couldn't get down the stairs and I felt a bit sorry for the people that were vulnerable. You know, there were people with young babies as well. And the poor animals were scared and suffering too but I never felt scared for my life. And now it’s a beautiful day and we have moved through the other side. We love St Pete and Florida so we'll be back!”

Neighbors Maureen Cox, Roger Rovell, and Louise Santopolo returned to Pass-a-Grille Tuesday to little damage and a lot of gratitude.
Credit Cathy Carter

Maureen Cox: “I live in Pass-a Grille, St. Pete Beach and for the storm I was working at the emergency room in pediatrics at Brandon Hospital. As the storm started to come close, everything started to close down. All your doctor’s offices closed down so we had a lot of people come in. We did have a few emergencies but also had some people with some minor things going on. Because of all the stress they just wanted to be checked out. I got back from the hospital at 1am today and I had word that my roof was on and we did not take on water. But no one knew about the electricity. So I came into town and I wasn't sure whether or not I had electricity. Everything was dark so I wasn't sure. So when I got into the house I opened up the door and I felt the air conditioner and I was like, yes!”

Roger Rovell: “I live in Pass-a -Grille. The surprising part to me in the thought process was that I actually considered not leaving even when the forecast was calling for a direct hit on St. Petersburg which would have been really stupid had the storm surge been as high as potentially predicted. Of course I had concerns that my home would no longer exist when I got back. I was also really concerned about really high winds. I have neighbors with solar panels and he had warned me about that, thinking that they weren't going to withstand the winds. They’d be projectiles coming at my windows. So I think all of us in this community dodged a great big bullet.”

Louise Santopolo and her neighbors spent Sunday night at her friend's tuxedo warehouse in downtown St. Pete. They had a generator, a grill, and board games.

Louise Santopolo:  “I live in Pass-a- Grille Beach. We along with almost all of our neighbors on our street decided to evacuate to one of our neighbor’s warehouse who happens to sell tuxedoes, Sacino’s downtown. We all pulled together with food and with water. By the end of the night we all dressed up in tuxedoes and did a group photo at about midnight. And there was no drinking! In the morning we ended up using the generator that had four plugs with four coffee pots going nonstop. Our house has power but the power out here is really spotty. Our neighbors that don't have power are staying in our apartment above our house. This neighborhood is really pulling together.”

Isabel Showe opened up Swim & Play in St. Pete Beach on Tuesday. It was one of the few shops opening for business early Tuesday after Irma.
Credit Cathy Carter

Isabel Showe: “I work at Swim and Play located in St. Pete Beach. On my drive from Seminole there were really no issues. There are a few power outages with lights being out. My one little pet peeve is that when the lights are out, people need to know that it's a four way stop. You need to stop, not just blast through because no one's in the intersection! The big damage to our store thankfully was our sign got ripped out of the ceiling, and that was it. Getting things back together is actually a joy because you realize what you almost completely lost. Everything's still here so we just are really, really thankful.”