Monday, March 23, 2009
Wildfires On Course To Ravage Much of Southwest Florida, Hillsborough Will Not Rescind Sprinkler Ban
Out of control wildfires of biblical proportions encircle Sarasota Bay, consuming everything in their path, while 15-year old Mindy Barnes, here with her parents, watches disaster unfold and declares this "worst vacation ever."
As Southwest Florida witnesses cataclysmic wildfires, emergency officials pressed Tallahassee and Washington for more resources, including the National Guard.
Sarasota County Emergency Management says this unprecedented catastrophe could kill thousands and virtually wipe Sarasota off the map. leaving in its wake a charred, barren wasteland for years to come, sterile and lifeless.
"Fine with me," says says 72-year old William "Crusty" Mihalco of Siesta Key. "I'm six months behind and upside down already in my condo payments, so this will really help me get out of a jam. Plus, I was getting sick and damn tired of all that noise coming from Gilligan's Bar after 9:30 at night."
Officials stressed the need for state and federal assistance after the fires cut off major escape routes like I-75 in their inexorable march to the sea, trapping tens of thousands of residents and visitors. The only way out now appears to be through Longboat Key to Bradenton, which became a virtual parking lot when Longboat Key, sensing an opportunity, set up speed traps and DUI checkpoints near the south end of the island.
"Fleeing for your life from a fiery hell does not excuse you from following the motor vehicle regulations of Longboat Key," said one unnamed police official, "and if you fail to provide registration and proof of insurance when requested, then you are in violation of those regulations."
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan reported that he approached Pres. Obama directly about federal assistance and was told that "money's a little tight right now, but I can assure you that change will be coming to Sarasota and all of Florida."
Meanwhile, Suncoast representative to the Florida legislature, Kathy Detert, was told to come back tomorrow by security guards at the state capitol in Tallahassee, as all state government offices were closed in the wake of the Florida State University loss in the NCAA basketball playoffs. Rep. Detert is hopeful that she can meet with Florida Emergency Management officials tomorrow.