Friday, September 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Dazed Cedar Key deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine

They thought they were doing the right thing as Hurricane Hermine approached.

The folks who harvest clams at the Cedar Key Gulf Coast Gold clam farm took all of their gear off the docks and stored it inside the plant as the Category 1 storm bore down on them. They thought it would be safe in there.

But nothing in Cedar Key was safe from Hermine.

The storm made landfall early Friday morning, and after it had passed by that afternoon all that was left of the clam processing plant were charred concrete blocks, tin roofing and the lingering smell of soot. The storm had started an electrical fire.

What Hermine started, the fire finished.

"Everything it takes to run this business was in there," said shop manager Joe Cannon, 43. "It took 15 years to accumulate all the tools, and it took Hermine to take it all away."

Cedar Key is known as an old-fashioned but artsy coastal village that's popular with tourists. But on Friday it was known as one of the Florida towns hardest hit by Hermine, which came ashore about 100 miles northwest of Tampa Bay and lashed most of the state with high winds and heavy rains.

Residents emerged from their shelters in a daze after Florida's first hurricane strike in 11 years. Cedar Key police Chief Virgil Sandlin estimated the town suffered at least $10 million in damage.

The water in Cedar Key rose 9 feet before receding and left signs of destruction visible all over the island. Businesses and homes were destroyed. Personal belongings littered the streets. Docks were mangled. Torn palm fronds were piled on the side of roads.

The town's only grocery store suffered winds and water damage. Inside, rotting food lay strewn all over the floor.

On Dock Street, a loop of road that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico, the decks of restaurants built on stilts over the water were fractured and broken. The interiors were left in shambles.

The same thing happened to all the rooms on the ground floor of the Beach Front Motel. The water rose so high that it pushed the air conditioning units right out of the wall. When the water receded, it left behind seaweed and a thin veneer of mud on the tile floors, as if someone had spilled black paint everywhere.

"None of us on this island were ready for this," said Teresa Gonzalez, who bought the property with her husband only two months ago.

She was in the motel's office Friday afternoon, calling people who were scheduled to stay over the Labor Day weekend. The holiday rate, she said, was between $110 and $135 a night, and all 27 rooms were booked for at least three nights.

"This is the part that's not fun because you see the dollars that aren't going to come in," said Gonzalez, 62, who owns the hotel with her husband, Raul.

She estimated it will be at least two months before she could start accepting guests again. That means she'll miss out on the Cedar Key pirate invasion in two weeks, Seafood Fest in October and maybe even Veterans Day in November.

Cedar Key wasn't alone. Hermine's storm surge coupled with the high tide made for a disastrous combination for towns up and down Florida's west coast.

Levy County issued a mandatory evacuation of the island Thursday morning, but Sandlin estimated that only 30 to 35 percent of the 700 residents complied.

The police chief said it struck him Thursday night just how dangerous the storm might be.

"About 9 o'clock I realized we were in deep, deep trouble," Sandlin said, going on his 36th straight hour working.

Fortunately, the chief said, no one was injured there.

The Levy County Sheriff's Office had blocked entrance to the island after the storm, allowing only residents, businesses owners and workers, utility workers and the media to pass through.

For once, tourists were not welcome at Cedar Key.

"We turned a few of them around," the chief said. "They just wanted to see our pain."

Yet as Cedar Key began to pull itself back together, there was some hope amid the despair.

Rose Cantwell owns another clam shop and volunteered to let Cedar Key Gulf Coast Gold use her equipment until they can rebuild.

She's also staying with a friend, because the storm damaged her home.

In this town, she said, people support each other.

"When you sneeze, there are 20 people to say, 'God bless you.' "

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.

     
   
Comments
After record-setting day in Tampa, last day of summer brings more stifling heat

After record-setting day in Tampa, last day of summer brings more stifling heat

Weather in Tampa on Thursday took one step above the previous record high, then another for good measure.The high temperature in Tampa reached 96 degrees Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. That beat the old record of 94 by two degre...
Published: 09/21/18
Heat of the moment: Tampa sets record high today with 95 degrees

Heat of the moment: Tampa sets record high today with 95 degrees

TAMPA ó Congratulations, Tampanians (and a couple of you Tampans, too) because you all set a record on Thursday.The city had a record high of 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.That exceeded the old high of 94 degrees by just one d...
Published: 09/20/18
Afternoon thunderstorms to provide break from heat across Tampa Bay

Afternoon thunderstorms to provide break from heat across Tampa Bay

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to drench Tampa Bay by Thursday afternoon, bringing a slight reprieve from temperatures that will feel like they're near 100. Hot afternoons will remain intact throughout the weekend with late-day show...
Published: 09/20/18
'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

As Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas late last week, bringing with it torrential rain and flooding, the news was grim: Towns were transformed into islands cut off by floodwaters, the number of storm-related deaths increased daily and hund...
Published: 09/19/18
As Florence dissipates, what happened to the other tropical storms in the Atlantic?

As Florence dissipates, what happened to the other tropical storms in the Atlantic?

On Sept. 10, three storms and two tropical disturbances seemed to pose a threat to the Eastern United States from the Atlantic. A graphic from National Hurricane Center showed Hurricane Florence approaching Bermuda with a trajectory aimed roughly at ...
Published: 09/19/18
Last week of summer continues typical forecast of hot, humid weather across Tampa Bay

Last week of summer continues typical forecast of hot, humid weather across Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay trudges through a week of hot and humid weather with more afternoon showers, and Wednesday's forecast indicates much of the same. While Tampa Bay appears to have a wet weekend ahead, a change in air flow will push back the timing of the sto...
Published: 09/19/18
Last week of summer continues typical forecast of hot, humid weather across Tampa Bay

Last week of summer continues typical forecast of hot, humid weather across Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay trudges through a week of hot and humid weather with more afternoon showers, and Wednesdayís forecast indicates much of the same. While Tampa Bay appears to have a wet weekend ahead, a change in air flow will push back the timing of the sto...
Published: 09/19/18
Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

Fate of FEMA leader Brock Long in doubt as Florence cleanup continues

WASHINGTON — While Hurricane Florence barreled through the Carolinas, a different type of storm was brewing within the federal disaster relief agency tasked with responding to the fallout.The fate of Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergen...
Published: 09/19/18
Plenty of sunshine means hot, humid day for Tampa Bay

Plenty of sunshine means hot, humid day for Tampa Bay

Temperatures will rocket into the lower 90s by the late morning to early afternoon Tuesday, while little cloud cover will leave plenty of sunshine to warm up Tampa Bay.Tuesday morning will begin relatively dry with sparse cloud cover and few storms a...
Published: 09/18/18
Plenty of sunshine means hot, humid day for Tampa Bay

Plenty of sunshine means hot, humid day for Tampa Bay

Temperatures will rocket into the lower 90s by the late morning to early afternoon Tuesday, while little cloud cover will leave plenty of sunshine to warm up Tampa Bay.Tuesday morning will begin relatively dry with sparse cloud cover and few storms a...
Published: 09/18/18