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"Very grateful" - Coastal Taylor County neighbors making a comeback six months after Hurricane Idalia

The storm made landfall at Keaton Beach the morning of August 30, 2023
Posted at 9:25 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 09:25:34-05
  • Hurricane Idalia's storm surge damaged communities along the Taylor County Coast six months ago.
  • Businesses have been working to rebuild and recover since the storm sent a eight to 12 foot storm surge into the communities along the water.
  • Watch the videos above for a tour of the communities that continue to rebuild six months after the storm.


It's been months since Hurricane Idalia made landfall right here on Taylor County’s Coast. I’m Channing Frampton in the Keaton Beach neighborhood. While the 10-foot storm surge here receded months ago, the memories of that historic hurricane are still deep within this community.

Hurricane Idalia approaching the Big Bend on August 30, 2023

“There are people who lost a lot. They may have lost a home.” Spyridon Aibejeris lives right on the water in Keaton Beach. While his house was spared, he says they’re still paying for damage at the RV park his family owns. "So, it took almost 2 weeks to get it back in operation. The repair costs, you didn’t figure that in, so what do you do? You can’t absorb that. You have to pass that on to the customer. That’s tough."

Spyridon Aibejeris 

He’s one of several business owners working to get back to normal six months after Idalia sent a storm surge plowing into this community.

"This just came out in the last two days, and there’s more debris sitting along the bank.” Jim Zurbrick is one of those business owners. He’s been operating out of this marina on the Steinhatchee River for 24 years. “This is more debris that I pulled out two days ago.”

Jim Zurbrick stands next to debris he said he pulled out of the water

Six months after the storm, he’s still working to pull debris out of the water. “For the first two to three months, boats like mine just couldn’t safely leave here, and we didn’t have fuel.” It's fuel for the boat he was prepared to lose during the storm. “The day before, I came over here to my boat, and I said goodbye to my boat. I’ve had this boat for 30-some years. It’s like a child, right?”

Storm surge flooding during Hurricane Idalia

His wife, Patty, snapped this photo showing Idalia’s surge flooding the area. To give you an idea of how high the water actually got in this marina, you can use this pole as a guide. It’s about nine feet above the water line. He says the water got all the way to the top of this post.”

As the water clears and supplies return, Zurbrick is working to get back to the thing he loves - fishing on the gulf. “We’re going to try to just get back. It’s slow. It’s like anything. Recovery is you don’t get back on your feet. It’s a while. It’s been five plus months now.”


Revisit the spot Hurricane Idalia made landfall 6 months later

Neighbors like Aibejeris give thanks for the support they’ve gotten since the storm. “There was some damage and a lot of work to be done, but (I'm) very grateful.”

Florida Department of Law-Enforcement confirmed six deaths are attributed to the storm in Florida. None of them were in Taylor County.

Keaton Beach is a community that’s weathered storms for decades.

“You learn from each storm and decide how you’re going to prepare,” said Spyridon Aibejeris. Those storms include Hurricane Idalia. Six months after Idalia made landfall right here, this community on the Taylor County coast is still rebuilding. I’m Channing Frampton in the Keaton Beach Neighborhood.

On August 30, 2023, the land I’m standing on was under 10 feet of water. While Apalachee Bay is back to its normal calm now, neighbors here are still feeling the historic storm’s effects.

It was August 30, 2023 at 7:45 a.m.


Watch the moment Hurricane Idalia makes landfall

“Category 3 landfall at Keaton Beach,” said First to Know Chief Meteorologist, Casanova Nurse. The call still echoes along the Taylor County Coast six months later.

“There was some damage and a lot of work to be done, but (I'm) very grateful,” said Aibejeris. He said he's grateful to still have a home. Aibejeris lives here in Keaton Beach. “I’ve been here 40 years.”

His house sits right on the water. He helps with the family business, Old Pavilion RV Camp Ground.

Spyridon Aibejeris

If he looks familiar, ABC 27 interviewed him live in Perry the morning Idalia made landfall. “You don’t want to go too far from home, because what if you can’t get back.”

Six months later, he told ABC 27's Channing Frampton, "It took us a couple of weeks to get up and going.” Six months after the storm, they say they are still trying to fill some of their RV lots. They’ve got 40 of them total on the property.

Just up the road in Steinhatchee, businesses and homes are still in recovery. "About 3 a.m. in the morning, my wife was sitting in the recliner in tears once the hurricane hit cat 4,” shared Shannon Wirick Jr. He owns and operates Puddin’s Hatch Wagons. “You never know what to expect,” Wirick said.

Shannon Wirick Jr

His business was spared, but he took me on a tour of what his neighbors are still dealing with. “Both sides of the road it (debris) was 6 to 10 feet high.” While that debris is gone from the streets, in some of the homes in this neighborhood, the damage can still be found. Wirick took me inside one of them. There is still some silt left behind from that storm surge that pushed into Steinhatchee.

Channing Frampton points out the water line in a home that the hurricane flooded

In houses that haven’t really been touched yet, there’s still a water line from how high that salt water got inside the home.

Despite the damage here, Wirick says he’s got faith that this community will move beyond the storm. “As far as Steinhatchee, we will always and have been Steinhatchee strong. I have never been part of a community that’s come together as tight knit as this community has and helped everybody.”

He and others say they're hoping the tourists, who drive so much of this area’s economy, will return in the months ahead. It’s a hope shared all along the Taylor County Coast.

“The storm comes and the storm goes. You come back and you fish and you enjoy what we have,” concluded Aibejeris.

Keep in mind, the National Weather Service says Idalia moved ashore during low tide six months ago. The water could have been 3 to 4 feet higher had it moved in at high tide just four hours later. With hurricane season just 3 months away, neighbors here will be keeping a closer eye on the bay.