HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — Weeks after Hurricane Idalia, coastal communities in the nature coast are just now returning to normal.
Waterfront areas of Hernando and Citrus counties dealt with what our weather experts estimate was more than three feet of storm surge.
Businesses like Hunter Springs Kayak Tours have since reopened. The storm pushed nearly a foot of water into the kayak rental store. Cleaning up required plenty of time and patience.
But now, local leaders say it’s time to get the message out — that Citrus County is back open for business.
“You had businesses that were impacted that were also giving back to the community,” said Josh Wooten, President & CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. “Just people working together. The government did a great job and I think the citizens, at large, really, it’s a testament to them that we got back up and running quickly.”
Wooten added that with businesses back up and running, he expects a boost for the local economy.
And just a 10-mile drive south from Crystal River to Homosassa, another local business had to pick up the pieces after Idalia. A job these owners are taking one scoop at a time. Rebekah and James Barr never expected such a significant impact from Idalia.
“You see these things on tv but then to actually experience it a little bit, it’s like, ‘Wow- this is surreal,’” said Rebekah.
They’ve owned their ice cream shop for four years — the 'Ice Cream Barr' a blessing — until the storm brought uncertainty.
“My first reaction was to cry, but I just knew it was all for a purpose and that there was a reason behind it all,” said Rebekah. “I didn’t know how we were going to be okay, but I knew we were going to be okay.”
The shop you see now looked pretty different after Hurricane Idalia impacted Florida’s Gulf Coast in late August.
“One of the first things I noticed when we were able to get into the building was this right here,” said James. “We’d scrubbed quite a bit, but you can still see a clear water line. This is about 18 to 20 inches from the ground.”
After many hours of scrubbing and cleaning, their shop is now back open. Serving hungry customers one cone at a time.
But owning an ice cream shop wasn’t something they’d even thought of until moving to the area.
“I grew up in upstate New York where there’s ice cream shops on every corner and we come down here and we’re like, ‘Okay let’s go get some ice cream,’” says Rebekah. “And there’s no mom-and-pop ice cream shops. We were like, ‘We need to do that.’ We like to cook, so it’s kind of a hobby, but I never thought we’d get into ice cream.”
A hobby now turned into a profession. Made special by the experiences they’ve gone through.
“All of the old machines that were given to us by friends and other people who wanted to help us out, gave us old appliances throughout all of this,” said James. “I cleaned them all and now they’re working better, they’re even colder. So there’s always good. Every time you look at a situation, there’s always good to be found.”
It’s that ‘finding the good during the bad’ that keeps the couple going. Maybe that’s why now — more than ever — it’s an appropriate time to celebrate.
“We are going to have our big grand opening party on Oct. 1,” said Rebekah. “It’s going to be a luau Hawaiian theme, so we hope you can join us.”
With a promise of more frosted treats on the way, you can find your local 'Ice Cream Barr' at 10844 W Yulee Drive, Homosassa.