NewsPinellas County


Tropical storm Eta leaves boats beached in Gulfport, businesses flooded out

Posted at 5:57 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 07:15:35-05

GULFPORT, Fla. — Tropical Storm Eta may be out of Florida but the clean-up is far from it.

In Gulfport, sailboats took a beating, and business owners continue to work to fix the mess Eta left behind.

On Thursday, spectators were spotted taking pictures and pointing at an unusual sight. At least seven boats were beached off the Boca Ciega Bay.

There were three beached sailboats found along the Gulfport Casino. One of them came near the building and another rammed into the seawall damaging the metal railing.

Paul Cummings started his morning on Facebook Live catching up with fellow stroke survivors. A few of his viewers were the first to catch a glimpse of something not normal outside his home. Cummings then discovered a sailboat beached in his yard and snapped a picture.

“I felt like I was back in New Orleans. I lived through Hurricane Katrina and this was so reminiscent of that because of the wind, the rain — washed up a lot of debris. It was scary," he said.

Mike Jackson owns Paw Paws of Gulfport, a pet supply store. Jackson worked diligently before the storm hit. He packed sandbags and lined the front entrance to his shop with sealant.

By 11 p.m. on Wednesday Jackson felt so much unease, he left home and waded the storm waters to check on his business. He recorded his journey on video and when he came to his shop he was stunned.

“My heart fell in the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was expecting some minor flooding with the high tide but it was crazy. I couldn’t believe the amount of water that was here so quickly," he said.

Jackson has been at work since 5 a.m. on Thursday cleaning up the damage. He estimates it'll cost him upwards of $3,500 to replace the waterlogged flooring and lighting.

Despite the heartbreaking day of work to fix Eta's damage, Jackson is finishing the day with a full heart. He calls his community "Gulfport Strong."

Jackson was touched to see neighbors and fellow small business owners donating time and equipment to help each other dry out.

"2020 has been nuts," he said. "It’s unbelievable what it keeps throwing at us but we are strong we’ll get through it.”

Nick Calitri rode out the storm inside his boat with his pet parrot named Yoshi.

“All night, rolling and pitching and rolling and pitching," he described.

His family and friends kept calling him worried he was in danger.

“I was concerned that I would be floating in the water with my parrot clutched to my chest," he laughed, and acknowledged he was scared to the point he couldn't sleep. "And being that I was over there [in the water] I would float all the way across the Bay. I was like 'this is going to be some story if it did happen’ but thank God it didn’t happen.”

When the waves got too choppy for comfort he slipped on his life jacket and kept it on until the storm passed.

"This morning when I woke and it started getting clear and I looked at boats... the little boat that was anchored next to me actually sunk," he said.

Staff from Red Cross surveyed the aftermath on Thursday and told ABC Action News they are particularly interested in finding boat owners who live on their boats and may be in need of food and shelter.

ABC Action News found the owner of one of the beached boats who says she hopes insurance will help ease this headache left behind by Eta.