According to many reports scanned by row2k, Sarasota was not hit as hard as it might have been, so there is reason for optimism among the rowing community with regard to the venue. The WRCH2017 LOC issued the following statement at 2pm today:
9/11/17 Statement on Hurricane Irma from the local organizing committee:
The organizing committee of the 2017 World Rowing Championships has started a complete assessment of the impact of Hurricane Irma. The OC is in constant communication with the local and state officials to coordinate the recovery initiatives in the area as well as with the airports, hotels, transport partners and vendors. The Sarasota/Bradenton area did not come under the direct impact of the hurricane as predicted thus, luckily, damage is limited. The area is still under movement restrictions until all services are restored and roadway damage is cleared. The 2017 World Rowing Championships staff is working diligently along with the support of FISA and USRowing to ensure a safe and successful World Championships. Further updates will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours.
The shells that have already arrived in containers from overseas are safe in their packed shelters, and the venue at Nathan Benderson Park where the World Rowing Championships are scheduled to begin in two weeks is braced for whatever Hurricane Irma brings when it reaches Sarasota early Monday morning - inasmuch as it can be.
According to the local organizing committee officials, planning for the monster storm included holding off on building the 284 tents that will be used during the regatta, and the more permanent, larger structures, including the recently completed finish line tower, are anchored and designed to withstand severe winds.
Venue executive director Meredith Scerba released a statement Friday in which she said sufficient time was built into the venue's construction planning to allow for any possible weather delays. Those plans included holding off on the construction of the event tents and completion of the spectator grandstands, holding off on the top levels and the canopy to minimize wind impact.
According to venue communications manager, Max Winitz, racing shells and equipment containers already on site remain packed and safe. "None of the shells have actually been taken out of their containers yet that have arrived from overseas, so they remain safe and secure," Winitz told row2k.com. "I believe we have around a half dozen of those containers on-site at the venue."
Winitz also passed along the latest statement from the local organizing committee:
"As mentioned in a previous statement, buildout has been delayed to allow the weather system to pass through. Our Operations Team has worked countless hours, ensuring that all buildout material is secure. Moreover, our Manger of Athlete Services remains in touch with Team Managers from the 71 participating countries. Due to airport closures around the state of Florida, some delegates will not arrive on schedule for team training. We are doing everything possible to assist with their travel arrangements."
Irma is expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys early Sunday morning and then move up the state's southwestern coast and toward the Tampa Bay area sometime Sunday afternoon. The strength of the storm has fluctuated between a category 5 and Category 3 hurricane depending on whether it is over a land mass or over the warm coastal waters where it can gather energy and strength.
Predictions are that it will contain Category 4 sustain winds that can reach up to 140 miles per hour with higher gusts. In addition to devastating damage, the storm will push a dangerous storm surge of sea water into coastal cities in its path. By the time it reaches the Sarasota area early Monday morning, it is expected to have decreased to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of up to 115 miles per hour.
The national weather service forecast for Sarasota mid-day Sunday is calling for winds increasing to 70 to 90 miles per hour and increasing through the morning to between 95 and 115, with gusts of 145 miles per hour possible.