Dozens of Franklin County businesses from Alligator Point to Apalachicola are reopening their doors following the October 10 catastrophic Hurricane Michael. One by one, popular Franklin County eateries, storefronts and vacation rentals along the coastline have swept out the storm muck, repaired damage and put out the welcome sign just as cool fall breezes are scheduled to arrive.
Franklin County was lucky; the coastal communities here were spared much of the wrath of the monster storm that wreaked deadly destruction in neighboring Gulf and Bay counties. Still, the county was damaged – much of the brunt of the storm targeting St. George Island and Alligator Point peninsula.
Business owners and vacation property management companies on St. George Island and Alligator Point have been making repairs to more than 800 vacation rental units in the area and taking inventory in preparation to resume fall rental activities.
“Our homes are in surprisingly good shape,” said Sam Gilbert, general manager at Suncoast Vacation Rentals, one of several property management companies on St. George Island.
According to Gilbert, elevated rental houses on the bayfront and beachfront generally lost whatever was under the house and many units have several feet of sand to clean up but most of the damage involved minor roof and siding loss. “We are hoping to welcome guests back by by mid November but we are keeping an eye on the progress of debris removal. We want to make sure that when our guests return, they have the same good experience they are used to when they visit,” he said.
Tourism leaders say that cleanup has been steady – a testament to a unified local government effort and community resiliency.
“There is still a lot of clean-up and repairs to do because many of our local lodging facilities and restaurants experienced significant damage but local businesses are definitely beginning to reopen,” said Curt Blair, Franklin County Tourist Development Council director. “Yes, there are still some road hazards but we expect things to be up and running by the first of November.”
Hurricane Michael forced the cancellation of several upcoming events scheduled for late October. Among those events cancelled include Carrabelle’s Lantern Fest and Gumbo Cookoff and Car Show, Apalachicola’s Autos and Oysters event and the popular Ghostwalk cemetery tour and St. George Island’s monthly Full Moon Lighthouse Climb. Other popular upcoming events, including Apalachicola’s November 2-3 Florida Seafood Festival, are still a go.