CEDAR KEY (FOX 13) - Hurricane season is almost here. The Bay Area was fortunate last year – escaping a direct hit - but folks in a popular west coast fishing village are still rebuilding.
In the quiet town of Cedar Key, library books are restocked, rooms remodeled, and lives rebuilt. It’s a community coming back to life.
"It's just a great place to come and unwind and relax and recharge the batteries," explained Leslie Landress.
But 8 months ago, it was a very different story.
"Everybody thought this thing was going to shift to the west which we were hoping for, but it didn't," Cedar Key Chief of Police Virgin Sandlin said.
Hurricane Hermine laid siege to the tiny cluster of islands and turned their dream existence into a nightmare.
"It actually came in in the night," Landress remembered. "The home I was in shook when the wind blew. I could see the water rising from both sides of the home."
"About 8:30, we realized that this was not going to be just your typical hurricane," Chief Sandlin added.
Landlocked and riding out the storm, people struggled to hang on but the damage had been done.
"They were fighting a fire in waist deep water," Chief Sandlin remembered.
"You couldn't see where the road was, where the shrubbery was. It looked like the complex was just sitting in water," Landress said.
When the storm passed, weary residents emerged to find the tiny town in disarray.
"It was almost unfathomable really, it was pretty impressive to see what the water did to this town," recalled Paul Anschultz of Hidden Coast Magazin.e
Storm surge did the most damage. It was 10-feet high in some spots.
Dock Street, the city's cultural center, was the hardest hit.
"Businesses were vulnerable because you know, they were damaged so bad that people could just come in and anybody could just walk into any of them," Landress said.
But Hermine didn't tear the community apart, it pulled them together.
"If you were a plumber or if you were construction in that line of work, they all came to help each other," Landress said.
"You had folks that sacrificed their vacations to come down and help us clean up cedar key, it restores your faith in humanity," Chief Sandlin said.
Now on the mend, the people of Cedar Key can see a new, more prosperous city on the horizon.
Hurricane season begins June 1. Watch FOX 13 News Saturday, May 27 at 10:30 p.m. for “Surviving the Storm,” your complete guide to preparing for storms.