CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (WSVN) — As Idalia moves further into the open ocean, those hit by the storm are starting the recovery process. The powerful storm left a trail of destruction behind in towns along the coast, including Crystal River.
Homes and buildings were almost completely underwater. Now, one survivor who decided to ride out the storm, is telling her story.
Tara Salute was born and raised in Crystal River and is now shell-shocked as a 7-foot storm surge cut her off.
“In less than five minutes, everything just started, coming,” Salute said.
Panicked, she grabbed her dog Millie and escaped through her window and paddleboarding to her next door neighbor’s house and the safety of their second floor.
She dodging water and something else.
“There were snakes crawling around outside my window. I mean, it was bad,” she said.
Then hours later, there was more destruction.
The neighbor’s house on the other side caught fire.
Neighbors heard the explosions.
“And then my neighbor next door opened my front door and said get out, bullets were just exploding,” Salute said. “His house was just going up in flames”
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of private citizens, rescued 73 people just from the Crystal River area alone.
Airboats and high water trucks were the only way in or out.
Hundreds of homes flooded and almost every house took on some water.
Power crews were seen driving into the storm zone on Wednesday to help restore electricity.
“My hot tub floated over there, that’s not where it usually sits,” Salute said.
Back at Salute’s home, she’s already started the cleanup process, as she floating the contents of her life into the driveway and is now trying to figure out what comes next and is rethinking why she stayed.
“I was one of the stubborn ones, I didn’t want to get out,” she said.
Citrus County is among seven Florida counties which are considered a disaster zone after Hurricane Idalia.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit some of the hardest hit areas in the state on Saturday.
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