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After Hurricane Idalia, beachfront businesses clean up ahead of a busy Labor Day Weekend

sand on beach walkway on clearwater beach
Nancy Guan
Sand on Clearwater Beach walkway after Hurricane Idalia passed through.

After Hurricane Idalia blew past the coast, merchants who depend on tourists hope to make the most of what is usually a busy Labor Day Weekend.

Clearwater Beach and its businesses were not immune to the massive storm surge Hurricane Idalia brought to Florida's west coast.

The day after the storm, city crews were working to clear the debris left on roads and walkways. Business owners around the Clearwater Beach Marina were too.

Mark Tilly, owner of Clearwater Schooner, was unraveling the rope used to moor his 52-foot Schooner to the dock. His sailing tour usually takes people out into the Gulf of Mexico -- where Hurricane Idalia blew past just the day before.

"We left a lot of slack in the lines and the boats came up really high," said Tilly, gesturing towards the yellow mooring line.

man holding rope, pointing to boat at clearwater marina
Nancy Guan
Mark Tilly, the captain of Clearwater Schooner, unmoored his 52-foot schooner after Hurricane Idalia passed through on Wednesday.

Storm surge and a King Tide flooded the marina's parking lot yesterday, which drenched Tilly's ticketing hut as well. He had hosed down the inside this morning and was airing it out.

"It was about two feet higher than this maybe three feet higher than what you see right now," he said.

Water in the bay was receding but the wooden boardwalks at each slip were still submerged that Thursday morning. Tilly said he hasn't seen a tide this high for months. His small crew was putting the sails back onto the schooner and hoped to be back in business by Friday.

The ship captain said they had been spared the worst of the storm.

"We were anchored, it wasn't as bad as it could've been. We were prepared," said Tilly.

Business has been slow this summer, which he attributes to inflation. Tilly said he hopes Labor Day weekend will be one last boost before the season ends.

red pirate ship docked at the marina
Nancy Guan
Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise was dealing with a downed phone system after Hurricane Idalia passed through. They were hoping to get the hut up and running again before the Labor Day Weekend.

A few yards down the Marina, Amber Love runs Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise. The bright red pirate's ship is hard to miss. She's hoping she'll be busy this weekend, too.

"We've been about 25% down with the business. But we're working to get that back," said Love.

Some businesses saw out-of-town guests cancel reservations because of the storm. Love said she's counting on locals looking to get outside after hunkering down for the hurricane.

"It's a big weekend. So we hope that families will be, you know, inclined to come back and help us get going again," she said.

Jamey Cormier is the manager at Frenchy's. He says the restaurant was spared from flooding, but shades covering the seating area on the sand took some damage.

"So these straps that are on the wooden poles usually they connect, we have a few of them that broke in the storm. So we have to get those fixed before we put those back up."

Cormier says he expects a large crowd for the Labor Day weekend, so they hope to fix things as soon as possible. Customers wanting to dine outside can still sit under the restaurant's porch awning.

Tilly said he has bookings in tow for this weekend, but there's one more thing to worry about.

"I hope it doesn't rain," he said.

The Labor Day weekend forecast is calling for mostly clear skies with a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

As WUSF's general assignment reporter, I cover a variety of topics across the greater Tampa Bay region.
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