ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s Big Bend, a pristine and untouched region known for its diverse wildlife and natural wonders, is bracing itself as Hurricane Idalia approaches. Unlike the bustling tourist attractions of Disney World and South Beach, the Big Bend is a sanctuary for adventure seekers, offering opportunities for alligator hunting, tarpon fishing, and scallop exploration in its shallow waters.
The Big Bend: Where Nature Thrives
The Big Bend is situated at the meeting point of the Florida peninsula and the Panhandle, nestled southeast of the capital city of Tallahassee and north of the Tampa metro area. It has been over 70 years since the region experienced a major hurricane, with Hurricane Easy being the last to make landfall in 1950, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A Haven for Nature Lovers
The Big Bend is a beloved destination for those who seek solace and a deep connection with nature. Its counties, collectively known as Florida’s Nature Coast, showcase the region’s commitment to preserving its unspoiled beauty. With vast forests to explore, picturesque blackwater rivers and crystal clear springs for paddling, secluded camping spots, and scenic trails for hiking and biking, the Big Bend offers endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The region boasts over 1 million acres of untouched land.
The Unprecedented Threat
Hurricane Idalia’s anticipated arrival has sent shockwaves throughout the region. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has described it as an “unprecedented event,” as no major hurricanes have made their way through the bay adjacent to the Big Bend. The storm made landfall near Keaton Beach as a high-end Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds reaching 125 mph. The low-lying marshes faced the potential of a storm surge up to 15 feet, causing concerns for populated areas such as Gainesville, where the University of Florida has canceled classes.
Preparation and Collaboration
President Joe Biden has expressed his commitment to supporting Florida and the Big Bend region in the face of the storm. He has been in constant communication with Governor Ron DeSantis and other federal and state officials to ensure that necessary resources and assistance are readily available. Acknowledging the potential danger of the storm surge, experts like atmospheric scientist Kristen Corbosiero warn of the unique shape of the Big Bend coastline, which can amplify the impact of a hurricane.
A Community Bound by Resilience
While officials have issued evacuation warnings, not everyone is heeding the advice. Andy Bair, the owner of the historic Island Hotel in Cedar Key, has chosen to stay and protect his beloved bed-and-breakfast, which has withstood previous storms. Bair’s determination reflects the resilience ingrained in the Big Bend community, as they have weathered countless challenges throughout history.