St. Armands

Residents Association

Flooding & Stormwater Management

September 10, 1960

Hurricane Donna hits from the south with 120mph winds. Water was pulled out of all bays & inlets and brought back in when she pulled north, reportedly causing significant flooding and heavy damage on St. Armands Key.  more info , Wikipedia

July 28, 1998

The City of Sarasota enters into an Interlocal agreement with Sarasota County to maintain all storm water systems located in the City of Sarasota.

2006

A major stormwater improvement project was completed on St. Armands. A map of pump stations and baffle boxes, and a summary of the project details, can be viewed here.

Not all of St. Armands Key drains by gravity alone.  Previous to this project, there was a single pump station on St. Armands (PS 2005).  This project rehabilitated that pump station, added four additional pump stations (for a total of five), added baffle boxes to collect debris and prevent it from reaching the pumps, and added two backup generators to power the pumps.

June 25, 2012

    Tropical Storm Debby dumped a prodigious amount of rain across Southwest Florida - Herald-Tribune , Wikipedia

    October 9, 2018

      Hurricane Michael passed to the west, as did Idalia (see August 30, 2023), but the high tide and storm surge did not combine to reach as high as Idalia (perhaps it may have been a high tide, but not a king tide?) - Tampa Bay 10 , Wikipedia

      September 12, 2022

      Heavy rain flooded some Circle businesses - ABC7

      September 28, 2022

      Hurricane Ian passes 40 miles to the south causing massive wind and flooding damage to many southwest Florida communities.  This storm caused a lot of damage in the region, but, on St. Armands Key, this was a wind event only, not a flooding event.  Sarasota Magazine article , Observer article , Sarasota Magazine article , Wikipedia

      August 30, 2023

      Hurricane Idalia passed far enough to our west that there was no significant wind impact, but it happened to coincide with a king tide event resulting in significant flooding on the streets of St. Armands that persisted a full day in some sections. We estimate that there was a 3-4' storm surge on top of the unusually high tide.  This was probably the most significant flooding event on St. Armands since Hurricane Donna in 1960 (63 years ago).  Observer article , Herald-Tribune article , Wikipedia

      Unfortunately, the electrical control panels for the five St. Armands pump stations were surface mounted and got submerged by the floodwater, rendering them inoperable.  Coincidentally, a car crashed into the control system for one of the pump stations the day before the storm (details).  It is also believed that another one of the pump stations was offline, waiting for replacement parts which were on order.  It is unknown to what extent, if any, operational pumps would have ameliorated the flooding.

      The flooding damaged many homes and businesses.  Even the bottom level of the St. Armands Parking Garage was flooded, as well as 27 parking pay stations, per this City email.  The meditation garden at the St. Armands Key Lutheran Church was completely destroyed. 

      August 31, 2023

      The County sent out the following emergency update the day after the storm (Aug. 31 at 5pm):

      September-October 2023

      The St. Armands Residents Association had several communications with the Sarasota County Public Works Director and we sent several update emails to our membership.

      October 2023

      2023 Annual Member Survey

      What property damage (building and/or landscaping) did you sustain from the recent flooding?  (n=152)

      42% - No damage at all

      34% - Minor damage (up to $1,000)

      14% - Moderate damage ($1,000 - $10,000)

      8% - Significant damage (over $10,000)

      1% - I prefer not to say

      November 7, 2023

      At a Regular Meeting of the St. Armands Residents Association Board, the Sarasota County Director of Public Works, the City of Sarasota Director of Public Works, and the City Engineer were all present to answer questions about the flooding from Hurricane Idalia.  The Sarasota County Director of Public Works gave this presentation.

      December 17, 2023

      Another flooding event; at 2:30am, the Sarasota Police Department issued an alert on their Facebook page stating that roadways on St Armands Circle were underwater and that the area was closed. Flooding was so bad that the Lutheran Church had to cancel all their Sunday morning religious services.  

      There was a fairly high tide (but not a king tide) and fairly high winds, which resulted in in 3-or-so feet of storm surge. On one property, the "frack line" looked to be about a foot lower in height than it was during Hurricane Idalia.


      The County told us:

      One pump station overheated (PS 7010) and the storm drains leading to another (PS 2005) were clogged from vegetation/debris.

      January 4, 2024

      Response to our concerns from County Stormwater Operations Manager:


      CONCERN #1. Many residents don’t understand why the County doesn’t

      think that years of vegetation, mulch, and litter may have caused at least

      partial blockages of storm drains and pipes below grade

      There are nine baffleboxes on St. Armands Key. Baffleboxes are designed to capture both floatables and solids coming through the pipeline system. These boxes are inspected quarterly and cleaned as needed. The county would inspect the system to find the main contributor if we had significant accumulations. In the past years, we have cleaned the screens for floatable, but only once have we needed to clean for solids, which was shortly after construction.


      CONCERN #2. Due to the volume of water on our streets after both recent

      flooding events, many residents lack confidence that the outfalls (discharge

      pipes) have fully operational backflow preventers

        • During Hurricane Idalia, residents reported seeing water coming up from storm drains hours before the peak storm surge.
        • After the December 17 flooding, residents have reported dead plants, which makes people think that salt water did come up through the storm drains at both locations

      We have four Tide Flex Valves on the system. They have all been inspected and are functioning. The misconception of Tide Flex valves is that they will stop all the water from infiltrating the system. They only slow down the process. Gravity stormwater pipeline joints are connected with gaskets or put together with Ram Neck (a tar-like material), and then the joints are wrapped with cloth. This process prevents the sand from entering the pipe; however, the joint can still allow water to flow into the pipe. Although this is not an acceptable practice for sanitary sewers that need sealed joints, it is for storm sewers. The pump stations run several times daily, whether it is raining or not, because of saltwater water infiltration.


      CONCERN #3. For those residents who now know they are faced with the

      possibility of flooding, how do we keep them from endangering their lives

      by patrolling the streets with metal rakes, in the middle of a storm with

      high winds and in the dark of night, to make sure that storm drains are not

      getting covered with vegetation?

        • Do residents have to choose between personal safety and possible property damage?
        • If our storm drains are prone to blockage from vegetation during wind events, is there any way to monitor and clear them during a storm? Is there any way to design them to keep this from happening?
        • Around 2:30am on December 17, the Sarasota Police Department issued an alert on their Facebook page stating that roadways on St Armands Circle were underwater and that the area was closed. A resident going to the airport at 5am on December 17 reported that there were two different police officers stationed in different locations on St. Armands to warn and divert drivers. At what time did the County arrive on St. Armands and how did the County learn about the flooding?
        • Does the County get real-time notification of City police activity like this? For future flooding events, what if anything can be changed to get the County on site sooner (to clear storm drains and to reset pumps)?

      The residents should call 861-5000 or 311. We have on-call staff 24 hours a day. If the inlets were designed to allow the vegetation into the system, it would most likely clog the pumps, and what was small enough to be pumped out would be discharged into the bay, polluting the bay. I was informed of the problem around 7:45 AM via an email from the city and was on-site at 8 AM. The city police have contacts with the city's emergency management folks, and I can only assume they made those calls. I can't speak for them because I do not know. The county relies on the residents to notify them of any problems. You are our eyes and ears, so please report issues as they arise by calling 861-5000 or 311 and report the problem as soon as you see it. We have a SCADA on our stations that reports power failure. Power failure reports do not convey a clogged grate.


      January 4, 2024

      The following picture was taken yesterday at Pump Station PS 2005:


      One of the workers told a resident that "They are removing the pump that was found to have a large piece of concrete lodged in it".

      County response:

      SCADA notified us that there was a high current on the pump. Staff confirmed high amperage and ran the pumps in reverse to see if they could remove whatever was lodged between the impeller and the volute. When it didn’t work, we called our subcontractor to pull and inspect the pump. That is when they found the concrete. Unfortunately, I think it may have been my fault. When I cleared the grate across the street from the station on Dec. 17th, rebar covered the open throat to keep floatables out. I grabbed onto it with my rake and accidentally ripped it off. It was set into the concrete, and some concrete may have fallen in and been picked up by the pump.

      January 8, 2024

      SARA sends these follow-up questions to the County Stormwater Operations Manager:

        • In the Dec 17 flooding event, you came out afterward and cleared debris from clogged storm drains above grade. We still have one resident convinced that at least one storm drain at the corner of N Adams Dr and Madison Dr was blocked below grade (I had sent you the picture below in a separate email), which, if true, still needs an explanation.
        • Can we make an educated guess whether the debris blocking the storm drains was dead vegetation that was already on the grown, or live vegetation that the wind ripped off of trees? If the chances are reasonable that most/much of the blockage was caused by dead vegetation that was already on the ground, then this stormwater management system can't exist in a vacuum--it's effective operation depends on coordinated street cleaning, and the cleaning of medians, in advance of any storm. Is the City or the County responsible for street sweeping? I believe City Parks & Rec is responsible for maintaining the plantings in the medians. And obviously individual residents have to keep their own properties clear.
        • How do we make sure that our streets and medians are cleared of dead vegetation and litter in advance of a storm event? Because, if we don't, if there is no such coordination, December 17 shows us that our stormwater management system will be ineffective.
        • You mentioned that we have four Tide Flex Valves (backflow preventers) on the system, but I believe we have a total of eight outfalls (discharge pipes). Do the other half of our outfalls have any type of backflow preventer? The outfall from PS 2005 doesn't appear to have any sort of "duckbill" on the end. 
        • I'm reading that if flooding occurs at 2am, that the County won't hear about it until some resident wakes up several hours later and calls 311. There is a possibility that police might do it overnight, but there is no guarantee. On December 17, if a resident had called 311 to report flooding at 2am, would you or anyone else have been on-call to come out over night? Or would you have not come out until you did?
        • In the same way that you have SCADA-technology to alert you to a failure with the pump, is there some type of "float" that could be placed in a cylinder on the ground that could also use SCADA to automatically alert you in real-time that water was rising above grade? But, I guess it wouldn't matter if there was no one on-call to come out in real time.

      January 8, 2024

      Email from County Stormwater Operations Manager:

      I understand the frustration of the street flooding. We are doing our best to get everything fully functioning again. We have new panels, emergency pump outs, and pumps. We are in the process of having the valve vault replumbed at 2005. 2005 recently had a pump go down, and we are still having problems at 7010 with the power supply. I do not know why the drain at Adams didn’t go down. When I showed up at Pump Station 2005 the pumps were running. I will have crews inspect the drains from Adams to 2005 for obstructions. We will also have staff driving the circle periodically tomorrow as the front moves in.

      January 9, 2024

      Another winter storm with high winds but minimal rain caused some flooding near the St. Armands Parking Garage due to continued problems with some pump stations.


      The County told us:

      The check valves (backflow prevention) at Pump Station PS 2005 "are shot" and that they are not sure why Pump Station PS 7010 (located on the east side of the key in the median of John Ringling Blvd near the intersection with N and S Washington Dr) stopped pumping.

      January 12, 2024

      Response to our questions from County Stormwater Operations Manager:

      What happened at PS 7010 and PS 2005 on January 9, and what's going to be done about it?

      Pumps station 2005 had tripped the thermals. SCADA notified me, and I reset it. It functioned just fine afterward. The problem with this station is that the check valves in the valve vault are shot. We have a purchase order to replace the old ductile iron piping with HDPE. This work should begin in a week or two. The check valves stop the water from flowing backward into the station. We still do not know why Pump Station 7010 stopped pumping. We set up the emergency pump, and everything was fine. The following day, the pumps were working as they should. We are still investigating this, but there is a chance that we need to install new power cable.

      How do we make sure that our streets and medians are cleared of dead vegetation and litter in advance of a storm event? Because, if we don't, if there is no such coordination, December 17 shows us that our stormwater management system will be ineffective.

      I am sure the City performs street sweeping. I am not sure of the frequency, but I will find out. [Later:] The city just got back to me. The streets are swept one a month.

      You mentioned that we have four Tide Flex Valves (backflow preventers) on the system, but I believe we have a total of eight outfalls (discharge pipes). Do the other half of our outfalls have any type of backflow preventer? The outfall from PS 2005, and the two at the north end of the island, don't appear to have any sort of "duckbill" on the end.

      All the stations have check valves In the vault, which prevent the discharge pipes from backflowing into the wetwell. There is no need for Tideflex valves in these locations.

      On December 17, if a resident had called 311 to report flooding at 2am, would you or anyone else have been on-call to come out over night? Or would you have not come out until you did? In the same way that you have SCADA-technology to alert you to a failure with the pump, is there some type of "float" that could be placed in a cylinder on the ground that could also use SCADA to automatically alert you in real-time that water was rising above grade? But, I guess it wouldn't matter if there was no one on-call to come out in real time.

      As I said, the on-call staff is 24 hours a day, and yes, I have been out at 2 AM many times in my 22 years with the county. Luckily, I no longer have to do it, but I still will if needed. I do not believe a SCADA application would work for this.

      We are working on it to ensure everything fully functions by next rainy season. For the record, the county has spent excessive funds updating the stations in the past year. All the stations now have new pumps, panels, and pump outs. 2005 will have the valve changed out, and 7010 will probably have new power cables.

      January 22, 2024

      Last week, the County replaced the backflow prevention valves at our Pump Station PS 2005, located in the northeast residential quadrant at the intersection of N Washington Dr and Madison Dr.


      Notes from conversation with County Stormwater Operations Manager:

      • Following each of the above flooding events, the County was on-site when it was safe to do so and when they became aware of the flooding (someone has to call 311 to report it) or of malfunctioning pumps (reported electronically). The County brought in portable pumps whenever needed, has replaced and pole-mounted all electrical control panels, and is continuing to spend significant funds updating the St. Armands pump stations with new pumps, valves, panels, wiring, and pump outs.
      • There are two large generators on St. Armands Key: one behind the fire station that provides emergency power to PS 2005 and the pump stations on N Blvd of Presidents; one in the Fillmore Parking Lot that provides emergency power to PS 7010 and the pump station on S Blvd of Presidents
      • At some point in the past, it is believed that directional drilling was done that may have "nicked" the buried electrical and/or communication lines running from the Fillmore generator to PS 7010, and over time there has been a "hodge podge" of repairs done to these lines which has finally "reared its ugly head"
      • The County is planning to pull out these existing electrical and communication lines, do their own new underground directional drilling from the Fillmore generator to PS 7010, and pull 1000' of new wire in a single "monolithic" pull (one continuous wire; no junction boxes combining multiple shorter lengths of wire)
      • The County expects this work to be completed by June 1st, before the next rainy season
      • The County has already spent $500k on new pumps, $120k on new panels and pump-outs, $65k on new valves for PS 2005, and expects the upcoming electrical work to be another $20k
      • The County must have obtained an easement from the City to place the generator on the Fillmore Parking Lot (it's near the back of The Met), and it will be interesting to see how that comes into play if the City ever tries to sell this parking lot to a developer again
      • The County only maintains the stormwater management system on St. Armands, but the City actually owns it. This means that if your street always has pooling water after every rainstorm, it would be the City's decision (and budget) whether or not to put in additional storm drains and connect them to the existing underground drainage pipes.
      • The County confirmed with the City that the City performs street sweeping once per month

        February 5, 2024

        Another storm came through the area in the morning. A resident sent a picture of standing water all around a storm drain outside of the Lutheran Church, which the maps show draining to PS 7010.


        February 7, 2024

        Picture showing continued work on PS 2005:


        February 14, 2024

        County Stormwater Operations Manager response to questions about County Service Protocols for servicing our stormwater management system:

        I do not have a protocol for this. I started my career in the County with Wastewater Utilities and am very familiar with Lift Station (LS) operations. Our service level is higher than what I used to perform for the Utility:

            • Daily review SCADA for [electronic] alarms and notifications
            • Once a week LS’s [lift stations] are run on generators to ensure the system is functioning properly.
            • Monthly[:] inspect [pump] stations and record pump hours
            • Quartly generates [Quarterly: generators] are inspected

        February 15, 2024

        County Stormwater Operations Manager responds to resident inquiry:

        The life expectancy of Ductile iron pipe is 100 years, but that does not consider prolonged use in salt water. The new high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe should give us 100 years in saltwater. All the stations on St. Armands have now been plumbed with HDPE. All the panels and pumps have been replaced. The panels should never need replacing, just parts replaced. The pumps usually have a 20-year life expectancy. This system was installed in 2006.

        April 10, 2024

        County Stormwater Operations Manager provides update on pump station repairs:

        [PS 2005] has always had two pumps. One of the pump had to be repaired and reinstalled. Yes, 2005 is complete.

        [PS 7010:] The new drills were completed and the wires pulled. Just about done.

        April 11, 2024

        Flooding across from St Armands Lutheran Church, reported as being “up to my knees in ten minutes” by St Armands resident.

        County response:

        7010 isn’t done yet. For some reason the pump didn’t turn on. I at this point have no idea. I called the electrician and he is not sure either. We are going to put it on the emergency pump for the evening.

        April 17, 2024

        The City of Sarasota sent out this tri-fold brochure with flooding information in the monthly water bill.

        April 29, 2024

        Followed up on status of PS 7010 work.

        County response:

        The controls are still not right. They are working manually by not in remote. The vendor should be looking at it this week.

        May 23, 2024

        Followed up on status of PS 7010 work.

        County response:

        We are done. All stations are functioning as they should. We will continue to monitor them.

        How to Report Issues

        The City of Sarasota has an Interlocal agreement with Sarasota County to maintain all storm water systems located in the City of Sarasota.


        Report issues to Sarasota County by dialing 311, calling 941-861-500, or by using the County's "311 Connect" app.  More information can be found here.

        Interactive Sarasota Stormwater Map

        The County provides this online, interactive Sarasota Stormwater Map showing the location of storm drains, discharge pipes, and other elements of the stormwater management system. You can zoom in and out to find St. Armands, and then click on the "legend" and "layers" buttons (top right) to view or specify what gets shown on the map.


        Note:  There are some stormwater management features on the west side of St. Armands that are not incorporated in the interactive map which you can view here.

        This mapping tool was used to help create the following illustration showing how stormwater gets removed from St. Armands Key:


        Helpful Info & Links

        The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has more information on king tides here

        In Sarasota, our typical high tides are in the 1.3-1.8' range, measured above the average water level, with our highest tides being up to 2.3' above that average water level.  King tides in Sarasota, such as the one that coincided with Hurricane Idalia, can be around 2.8' (6 inches more than what is normally a very high tide).  Apparently that extra six inches of water during a king tide event, when combined with three-or-so feet of storm surge on the dirty side of a hurricane, can lead to flooding on St. Armands. 

        Click here for a website that forecasts future tide heights. 

        The NOAA has published this webpage with an interactive graphic and other information about stormwater inundation and how tides, storm surge, and other factors combine to cause coastal flooding.

        Role of St. Armands Circle Park

        In this historical photo of St. Armands Circle (circa 1950s?), you can see that the Circle Park has always been open land.  Per this May 2022 report by City Staff, the Circle Park serves an important stormwater management role.



        St. Armands Residents Association

        P.O. Box 2482, Sarasota, FL  34230

        e-mail us at: st.armands.residents.assn@gmail.com

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