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Hurricane Idalia recovery expected to take months for some Florida residents

'It's me and my kids at my house, and I need some help,' Kenya Padgette says
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Posted at 5:35 PM, Sep 06, 2023

STEINHATCHEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It was seven days ago that Florida's Big Bend took the brunt of Hurricane Idalia.

The Category 3 storm smashed into the Nature Coast with devastating effects on the rural communities and residents residing there. Storm surge, high winds and lots of rain left some areas unrecognizable.

In many ways, a week later, the recovery work is just starting. Debris piles now line the roads and tarps cover roofs. In hard-hit coastal communities like Steinhatchee, staples like Roy's Restaurant are getting stripped to the bone.

Co-owner Linda Wicker was fighting back tears when we spoke with her on Wednesday, trying to see the bright side. This is the second time she's had to rebuild Roy's after a natural disaster.

The costs are as high as the water line inside the well-known eatery, meaning she and her family will likely have to do some of the restoration themselves. It's a process she believed would likely take months.

"We're in — getting it cleaned up and the repairs are starting," she said. "As long as I can see some movement and improvement every day, I'm good."

About a half-hour north, in Perry, residents were packing into an insurance village. Many were hopeful for a check to cover their initial expenses.

Kenya Padgette's house lost windows and part of its roof. The property was damaged by wind and a toppled tree.

"It started raining in my room," she said, "like it was raining outside in the hurricane."

Due to the high cost of property insurance, Padgette lacked coverage. She was uncertain if groups like FEMA could offer aid.

"I mean— I really didn't get any kind of an answer," Padgette said. "I'll just have to wait and see what happens. It's me and my kids at my house, and I need some help."

Many others are exhausted. Some are so focused on recovery that they don't have time to grab a bite. That's where Eloy Palacios with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen comes in. He estimated he had served around 6,000 free meals to those in the Big Bend who needed it.

His mission wasn't money — it was making life a little easier when it's anything but.

"All the money is not good money," Palacios said. "What we're doing, makes me put my head in the pillow and get sleep well."

However, for many others in the Big Bend, sleep may be hard to come by as a new normal of repair and recovery sets in seven days after Hurricane Idalia.

State officials are urging those in need of help to check out FloridaDisaster.org for a list of all of the state and federal aid available.