KEATON BEACH, Fla. – Florida’s Big Bend took a direct strike from Hurricane Idalia on Wednesday – the first time a major hurricane made landfall there in 125 years – and it left a trail of destruction behind.
"The front of the eyewall was all wind," Emfinger told FOX Weather.
Ferocious gusts came in surges, easily reaching hurricane-force, Emfinger said. A wind gauge in town registered a gust of 83 mph before toppling, he said, but he estimated there were gusts over 100 mph.
With the storm making landfall just to his south, those initial winds blew out to sea, holding back any storm surge and leaving the ground dry.
Several minutes later, the weather stopped as the eye passed over the area.
"For about 10 minutes, it was completely calm," Emfinger said. "It was probably one of the calmest eyes that I’ve ever been in."
It gave him just enough time to launch a drone and get a brief aerial survey of Idalia’s wrath.
"There was pretty severe wind damage," Emfinger said . "One home had their roof completely removed. You could see right into their bedroom and everything, so the roof was like completely gone."
Town fared better than originally feared
Once the eye passed, the ferocious winds returned – this time blowing onshore and pushing in the Gulf of Mexico with it.
"Storm surge came in with the back eyewall," he said. "Within just a few minutes, several feet of storm surge came in very, very rapidly."
Video from his vantage point along the coast showed water several feet deep, washing over the front railing of a porch.
While the town flooded, the surge, at least in Keaton Beach, wasn’t as deep as originally feared.
"Generally speaking, I’d say Keaton Beach fared better than a lot of us, and a lot of the residents probably thought that they were going to fare," Emfinger said. "They really kind of dodged it here, like most people are going to be very happy to come home and still have a home. It’s probably going to have a few repairs, but most of the homes appear to be fine."