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Steinhatchee suffers millions in losses from flooding during Hurricane Idalia

A dock walkway at a marina.
Samantha Sydeski
/
WUFT News
The only thing left was the walkway to the dock at River Haven Marina Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. “Our fuel pump has washed away, and our back deck has shifted,” said Rob Lewis.

Local business owner Mark Bullock did not expect to spend his Labor Day weekend cleaning up debris. After Hurricane Idalia hit the West Coast of Florida early Wednesday morning as a Category 3 storm, it left its mark on this small fishing community on the Gulf Coast.

Bullock, 61, privately owns three of 32 condos in the Sunset Place Resort in Steinhatchee. These condos were leased out as vacation rental properties. The resort is located near the mouth of the Steinhatchee River where the hurricane had the most impact.

He said this was supposed to be one of the biggest holiday weekends for the town. The resort was booked six months ago for Labor Day weekend, but the hurricane damage left families without a place to stay in Steinhatchee for the holiday.

“As a general business, we are just out of business; nothing is being made and we can only employ one person,” Bullock said.

Bullock said this was the worst flooding the town has ever seen, with over seven inches of rain falling in the area. It completely washed out the bottom floor of the condos and dock.

The resort is shutting down indefinitely to repair millions of dollars in damage, he said, which may take more than a year to complete.

 The outside patio of Roy’s Restaurant was a place to grab a bite to eat while watching the sunset. The surge flooded the restaurant, destroying the inside and the patio.
Samantha Sydeski
/
WUFT News
The outside patio of Roy’s Restaurant was a place to grab a bite to eat while watching the sunset. The surge flooded the restaurant, destroying the inside and the patio.

The small town of Steinhatchee has about 600 residents and makes most of its revenue off tourists during scallop season. The scalloping season for Taylor County, where Steinhatchee is located, begins in the middle of June. Labor Day weekend marks the end of the scalloping season.

Bullock said the unit owners are devastated and will suffer from a loss of business until they can get up and running for the next season.

Residents, including Janice Tagairello, 73, said she is not only worried about the businesses that suffered but how this storm will affect the scallop season in years to come.

Tagairello has lived in Steinhatchee for over 20 years and goes scalloping three to four times each week. She said ever since Hurricane Irma, the scalloping just hasn’t been the same.

Hurricane winds turn up the waters, and scallops will move to deeper waters, she said.

“I’m nervous because they were all inshore, and I’m afraid it’s gonna hurt them,” she said.

Although scallop season is coming to a close, fishing season is just around the corner.

“It’s a little tough to deal with, and a lot of people are in shock and going through the motions."
Anthony Eagle

Rob Lewis, 60, the owner of the River Haven Marina, said he doesn’t know how long it will take to get everything up and running again.

Lewis and his wife, Barbara, have owned the marina for 10 years.

After the storm, floodwaters submerged the marina halfway up the building, and the docks were washed away from the impact of Hurricane Idalia’s winds.

He said they lost two boats, one of which was damaged while the other was somewhere down the river.

“The way everyone came together to help each other is just amazing,” he said. The small town has had many people come in from all over the state to help out.

 Dollar bills from locals and tourists still hang on the walls of Crabbie Dads after the storm surge rushed the building during the hurricane, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. “We’ve still got water to pump out under the building, and the floors have caved in,” said Anthony Engle.
Samantha Sydeski
/
WUFT News
Dollar bills from locals and tourists still hang on the walls of Crabbie Dads after the storm surge rushed the building during the hurricane, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. “We’ve still got water to pump out under the building, and the floors have caved in,” said Anthony Engle.

Anthony Engle, 50, said he came from Marianna, Fla., to help his friend Scott Peters in this time of need.

Peters owns Crabbie Dad’s Bar and Grille, which flooded and left the inside of the restaurant destroyed.

Crabbie Dad’s was supposed to have a big celebration on Sept. 1, celebrating 19 years with the current owner. But Hurricane Idalia had a different plan, evacuating most of the town.

Engle said having to shut down temporarily and put the employees out of work is going to make a huge mark financially. The bar and grill have been a part of Steinhatchee for over 60 years.

This spot was notorious for locals and tourists to stop by and listen to live music.

They haven’t been able to see the length of the destruction, he said, as they are still discovering the scope of the damage.

“It’s a little tough to deal with, and a lot of people are in shock and going through the motions,” Engle said.

Charles Norwood, 85, is the father of Charlie Norwood, who owns the Sea Hag Marina. He said the marina had lost the biggest holiday weekend of the year, estimating a loss of about $50,000.

Charles Norwood has lived in Steinhatchee on and off for about 25 years. His son has owned Sea Hag Marina since 1998. It’s one of the largest full-service marinas in Florida’s Big Bend. Charles Norwood said after looking at all the damage, they are looking at about $500,000 in repairs.

Most businesses are shut down temporarily from Hurricane Idalia but are scrambling to get back open.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered a big storm like this, and we will get through this as we always do,” Charles Norwood said.

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