WeatherHurricane

Actions

Big Bend communities struggle to return to normalcy amid more rain, extensive outages

'Anything on ground level was pretty much destroyed,' Matthew Piotrowski says
Posted at 6:22 PM, Sep 01, 2023

TAYLOR COUNTY, Fla. — Residents of Taylor County continue to assess the damage from Hurricane Idalia and begin to pick up the pieces.

It's a process now impeded by more rain and looters — a problem homeowners told WPTV they witnessed firsthand Friday.

In the Cedar Island community, near Keaton Beach where the storm made landfall, a barn was flattened, and homeowners said the water levels came about 9 feet high.

Julie and Matthew Piotrowski, who live right on the water, said after watching footage of their home from their friend's house in Georgia, they didn't expect to have a home to come back to.

"My friend in Atlanta, she sent me the footage of our house underwater," Julie Piotrowski said.

"You never know what you're going to come back to," Matthew Piotrowski said.

Matthew and Julie Piotrowski discuss the damage to their property from Hurricane Idalia.
Matthew and Julie Piotrowski discuss the damage to their property from Hurricane Idalia.

Thankfully, the majority of their home was still standing, but underneath it was a different story.

"I actually broke down and cried," Julie Piotrowski said. "That was really difficult."

Their gazebo is now in pieces, and so is their shed. Their waterfront walkway is in their backyard, and their downstairs room is a skeleton.

"It blew out, completely gone," Matthew Piotrowski said. "Anything on ground level was pretty much destroyed."

Still, the couple was thankful the damage wasn't worse.

Hurricane Idalia slams Florida, pushes north. Here's how you can help

Hurricane

How you can help those impacted by Hurricane Idalia

Scripps News Staff
7:16 PM, Aug 30, 2023

"Very, very blessed," Matthew Piotrowski said.

Yet, as the couple began to clean up, rain started pouring once again Friday, and the Piotrowskis said they saw looters start to take advantage of the houses still unreached by their homeowners.

"That's why he's here," Matthew Piotrowski said referring to a Taylor County deputy.

In Keaton Beach, deputies blocked off rows of houses to outsiders due to looting concerns. And just north of Keaton Beach, in a small community east of Perry, the biggest concern was the rain and the potential delays it would cause for line crews.

"It's like we didn't get enough in the storm," David Hall said.

Hall owns Spring Warrior Fish Camp, an institution in the area since the 1960s.

Hurricane Idalia took its toll on the camp. Its sign was nowhere to be found, and its fish-cleaning shed was flipped on its side.

David Hall was busy cleaning up Spring Warrior Fish Camp on Friday after damage this week from Hurricane Idalia.
David Hall was busy cleaning up Spring Warrior Fish Camp on Friday after damage this week from Hurricane Idalia.

"[The storm] blew the side out of it," Hall said. "We had a little bit of roof damage to the main lodge. The store we were putting in came off its block."

All in all, however, Hall fared OK during the storm. Instead, it's the weeks without power he's worried about.

"We run the camp here. I run a charter business here. All of that is going to be on hold until we can get some of this back in and the power back here," Hall said. "It'll be a financial burden for a while."

His main source of income will be halted for a few weeks, but said with the Winn-Dixie grocery store back open, his wife can at least go back to work.

"We'll be OK," Hall said.

Joe Biden, Ron DeSantis

Hurricane

DeSantis' office says no plans to meet with Biden in Florida

Forrest Saunders
4:46 PM, Sep 01, 2023

Both Hall and the Piotrowskis said despite the looting and the rain, even though in many ways the storm isn't over, they'll all make it through together.

"People we didn't know before we know them now," Hall said. "We band together."

The Salvation Army also set up camp at the Keaton Beach boat ramp, handing out hot meals and water to those without power.

WPTV also saw deputies driving around handing out Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs).

Other nonprofits and churches also handed out snacks, bottles of water and hot coffee.

WPTV First Alert Weather Spotters Sponsored By: Manatee Lagoon

About WPTV NewsChannel 5

Join WPTV First Alert Weather Spotters team

Jonathan Diego
4:35 PM, Jul 06, 2022
wptv-surf-forecast.jpg

Surfing Blog

Surf Forecast: Surf chances possible next week now

James Wieland
8:53 AM, Oct 09, 2019

2024 STORM NAMES

Alberto

Beryl

Chris

Debby

Ernesto

Francine

Gordon

Helene

Isaac

Joyce

Kirk

Leslie

Milton

Nadine

Oscar

Patty

Rafael

Sara

Tony

Valerie

William

TERMS TO KNOW

TROPICAL STORM WATCH: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.

TROPICAL STORM WARNING: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.

HURRICANE WATCH: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

HURRICANE WARNING: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.