Gulf of Mexico
Austin Ellison stares at his damaged property after Hurricane Idalia on Thursday in Horseshoe Beach, Fla. Ellison's family owns a seafood and shrimping business. Saul Martinez for NPR

FL - Idalia demolished some Florida fishing communities. But locals say they'll rebuild

Peter Ravella, CNT: Americans are not quitters and that helps explain or inability to recalibrate and rethink our development choices in the face of devastating storms along the American shoreline. As much we we want to believe that our deepening understanding of hurricanes, storm surge, sea level rise, and all the rest will bend our decisions toward a lower risk future, it is clear that is simply not the case. When the storms pass, we always hear, "We will rebuild." And, so we do and usually more densely and more expensively.

HORSESHOE BEACH, Fla. — For five generations, Austin Ellison's family has toiled in the shrimping and fishing business here in this picturesque shoreline community nestled in what's known as Florida's Nature Coast along the state's northern Gulf Coast.

"We supply seafood all over the state of Florida. Live shrimp. All kinds of seafood," Ellison said. "There's no place like being here on the water."

But when Hurricane Idalia barreled into the coast as a Category 3 storm on Wednesday with 125 mph winds, his family business, Ed's Bait House, was pounded to the ground.

Ellison points to his shrimping boat, named Miss Laura, floating in a nearby canal. The storm smashed out its windows, but the vessel survived otherwise.

To Ellison, rebuilding means not just the cost of construction, but the additional expense of meeting modern storm-proofing requirements — a daunting task for someone who makes less than $30,000 a year as a seasonal fisherman.


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"The rules and regulation in Horseshoe mean if you rebuild, it has to be up in the air, and that takes money," he said. "And money ain't flowing with the poor people down here in Horseshoe."

With his family business flattened, and his home here also shredded, Ellison is wondering if it's worth rebuilding at all, or moving on?

"It makes you think, what's next? Do you throw your hands up? What do you do?" he said.

What do you do? It's a question many residents and business owners are asking themselves, as they dig out of rubble. They fear that this remote village centered around shrimping, clamming and scalloping won't be able to spring back.

As he sifts through the wreckage of the store he runs, Dennis Buckley said he is going to do his part to make sure it does.

Buckley ran a business called the Marina that offered boating supplies, motel units and spaces for RVs.

The storm nearly blew it all away. Its building is still standing upright, yet its windows, doors and interior were peeled apart and spit out as hurricane detritus.

"We're not quitters. We just do one thing: Move on," Buckley said. "You can't change yesterday. You just have to go ahead and clean this up. We'll be open again."

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