Nate, while well to the west, left his share of victims in Gulf County.
Hurricane Nate, Tropical Storm Nate, made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi and brought sufficient inclement weather to Gulf County to cancel the biggest festival of the year and take a chunk from coastal beaches.
Away from the coast, Nate was a paper tiger, bringing storm surge of about 3 feet, less than an inch of rain and high, but not tropical force, winds to the county.
“If you live in town you probably thought it was a pretty much a non-event,” said Marshall Nelson, executive director of Gulf County Emergency Management.
“If you live on the Cape, though, it was a very big event. We took a beating on the coastal beaches.”
The storm and wave action took a bite out of the Stump Hole rock revetment along State/County 30E, laying waste to the additional reinforcement the state had installed when Hurricane Irma was making its approach.
“The state had added all that rip-rap and it blew all that out,” Nelson said. “It broke through where the littler rocks are and there was a lot of water over the big rocks.”
The road, however, remained open as state contractors were on scene to grade any loose rocks off the roadway.
In addition, erosion was evident up and down the beaches.
In the area of Cape Shoals, which had been undermined by another storm earlier this year, sand which had been placed since that storm became something akin to quicksand on Saturday.
The area was ultimately marked off with tape to prevent entry and that was not the only area of the beach were erosion took a tool.
“Coastal erosion was pretty bad,” Nelson said. “We are still waiting to get out on the beach in some areas to make a damage assessment.”
That, however, was about the extent of damage to property or people.
The primary victim of Nate, other than the beaches, was the Florida Scallop and Music Festival.
The festival committee, in the face of reports out of the EOC that by Saturday afternoon tropical storm winds were possible, debated what to do, said Guerry Magidson, chairman of the committee.
Magidson said he leaned more toward cancelling the festival outright, but the majority of the committee wanted to open Friday night and hope for the best on Saturday.
But given the reports steadily coming out that indicated the worst of Nate’s impacts would be felt locally as the festival reached its climax, the committee decided to cancel Saturday.
“The biggest logistic issue was the musical equipment,” Magidson said. “We couldn’t really take the chance of having all the equipment out there all day given the winds that were forecast.
“We decided to go ahead and cancel Saturday.”
However, the headlining musical acts of Saturday night, Steve Monce and Love and Theft, were both under contract and were to be paid regardless of the circumstances.
“We wanted them to get to at least perform somewhere,” Magidson said.
So, Rick Ott, the stage producer for the festival, moved the equipment over to the Port Theatre and the Saturday night music lineup went on as scheduled.
“It was hard getting the word out and a lot of people who would have been at the festival were not there so we didn’t have much of a crowd,” Magidson said.
“It was a heckuva show, a great hurricane party for those who showed up.”
But, in the end, a financial bath for the non-profit organization that took over the festival three years ago.
This is the non-profit’s final year of a trial period and a $50,000 note to the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, given as seed money to expand the festival, is due, Magidson said.
In addition, more than 40 vendors want their fees back for the Saturday the festival was not open.
In short, Magidson said, the future of the festival is in doubt.
“This could be the last festival unless somebody, like the (Tourist Development Council) picks it up,” Magidson said.
“I wish we were talking about a great festival and a record turnout. But Mother Nature has a mind of her own.”