Cedar Key residents return to island to check out damage from Idalia

Numerous homes, businesses destroyed from Category 3 hurricane

CEDAR KEY, Fla. – Residents of Cedar Key were allowed back on the island Thursday with a pass to check on their homes, a day after Hurricane Idalia struck Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm.

Some returned to find their homes destroyed by Idalia.

“As you can see, it’s unlivable,” resident Chuck Adams told Local 10 News reporter Andrea Martinez.

Homes were destroyed and debris remains scattered all over the roads.

Adams lost the bottom half of his home. What once was a small room, a garage and a laundry room are gone.

“We have no power, we have no water, so it’s not wise for me to stay here, so I’m going to try to find a place to go,” he said.

On Thursday, the power was back on for most, but not for everyone.

“We have wires dangling in places that I’m not sure it’s safe to have the power on,” Adams said.

Officials on the island are now working with the governor and FEMA to get a list going of what they need. A priority right now is getting sewage back up and running, especially since Cedar Key is a massive clam farming hub.

“The whole downtown is just desolation -- so much damage, and I don’t think anybody expected it to be quite this bad,” Adams said.

There was more destruction over on Dock Street, where restaurants and bars sit on the Gulf.

“As you can see, the destruction has been major,” said Laura Duncan, the owner of Duncan’s on the Gulf. “That kind of water pressure that came through here -- the major surge of water -- really compounded and banged the buildings hard.”

On Wednesday, the roads were closed and no one was allowed on or off the island.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Florida Department of Transportation was able to clear bridges, including the Cedar Key Bridge.

Residents told Local 10 News the storm surge reached 6-7 feet in some areas, but the water receded pretty quickly, so now we are getting a look at what is left behind.

A lot of buildings were salvaged, with the structures still there, but they were devastated by flooding.

Cedar Key Fire Rescue confirmed overnight that some power has been restored on the island. But as they are turning power back on, they are seeing more shortages due to some devices still being underwater.

“Fortunately, the search and rescue operations, the hasty searches and the really impacted areas – it’s been different than what they were finding with Hurricane Ian and that’s obviously welcome news,” DeSantis said.

The governor went on to say they didn’t get the panicked phone calls of people in distress needing search and rescue like they did with Ian.

There is still no water or sewage in some parts of the island, so because of that, those residents who do have a pass are being asked to come check in on their property, see what needs to be done and leave again if possible.

Getting the sewage treatment plant, which sits on the vulnerable island, up and running is top of the list as clean up continues.

“We have clam farms sitting out here,” Commissioner Sue Colson said. “We produce 95% of all clams and oysters in Florida. I’m more concerned that those clams and oysters are safe and not contaminated.”

Officials say rebuilding will likely take many, many months.

About the Authors:

A South Florida native, Andrea Martinez joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in April 2021.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.