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Steinhatchee neighbors still recovering from Idalia's storm surge as 2024 hurricane season begins

During Hurricane Idalia, the Steinhatchee River rose about eight feet in one hour
Posted at 7:10 PM, May 31, 2024
  • The Steinhatchee neighborhood is still working to recover from the effects of Hurricane Idalia's storm surge.
  • The storm brought seven to 12 feet of surge to the Taylor County coast in 2023.
  • Watch the video above to see why the Big Bend is so vulnerable to storm surge.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Hurricane Idalia’s storm surge drove feet of water into the Taylor County coast. This part of the Big Bend is especially vulnerable to that dangerously high water.

While the storm made landfall here on Keaton Beach in August, about 15 miles down the coast in Steinhatchee, that storm flooded homes and businesses miles inland. I took a trip to the Steinhatchee neighborhood to see how they’ve recovered.

“We weren’t walking through it; we were gliding through it. We had to shovel it out.” Anna Smyrnios remembers the water damage Hurricane Idalia left behind in Steinhatchee well.“I was born and raised right here in Steinhatchee,” Smyrnios said. “I bought this place, and three weeks after I bought it the hurricane hit.”

That hurricane brought feet of salt water right into her business, Bubsie’s Bait and Tackle. The store stands just feet from the Steinhatchee river. During Idalia, that river rose nearly 8 feet in one hour thanks to the storm surge.

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE HOW HIGH THE WATER GOT DURING THE STORM:

Hurricane Idalia storm surge floods Steinhatchee Marina at Deadman's Bay

Steinhatchee and other neighborhoods across the Big Bend coastline are especially susceptible to higher storm surge levels. Idalia’s surge sent seven to twelve feet of surge onto normally dry ground along the coast.

Because our shallow coastal shelf and flat inland coastline, more water can be pushed inland by hurricane-strength winds.

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Danielle Norwood shows Meteorologist Elizabeth Copeland how high the storm surge got in her business during Hurricane Idalia

“I would say it was kind of heartbreaking,” said Danielle Norwood. She owns Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee. The surge swamped the business. “We've been through a couple of storms,” Norwood explained. “We just try to take a very good, positive attitude.”

She told me at the peak of the storm surge, water levels got as high as this white mark here on this pillar. That was at low tide.

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Meteorologist Elizabeth Copeland shows how high the storm surge got during Hurricane Idalia in Steinhatchee

In the months after the storm, the business operated out of these trailers.

“This was hopefully just a bump in the road,” Smyrnios added.

Business owners prepare to weather whatever else mother nature brings to town.

“I could lay there and cry, which I did for weeks, or it's whether you go for it or don't but I am not a quitter,” Smyrnios concluded.

Remember, a storm surge watch is issued for areas along the coast that have the possibility of dangerous flooding 48 hours in advance. A storm surge warning is generally issued within 36 hours of the flooding.