South Walton was largely spared from the wrath of Hurricane Michael.
On Thursday afternoon, the popular 30A beach community was a ghost town. But there were a few signs of life.
Jason Schiess, general manager of The Great Southern Café, and a handful of employees were busy getting the restaurant ready for business while they waited for the power to come back on.
“We were batten down the hatches on Monday night and most of us got out of town so we were all spared,” he said. “Some of our crew went to Biloxi, some of us went to Georgia and some of us went as far east as Tampa.”
Schiess said he wanted to get the restaurant ready to start “feeding the community.” The power was out in Seaside for about two days before it was restored Friday morning. Most residents and tourists evacuated from the area.
“I came up here Tuesday to check on the place and there were some tourists here vacationing and they were on their bikes and they asked ‘does seaside always close down this much in the off season? Looks like a hurricane’s coming,’” Shiess said. “It’s a ghost town right now. It’s never like this.”
Rex Bickley and his family were among the few Seaside guests that stayed.
“When it was a Category 2, it kind of came up pretty quick we felt like we could definitely ride that out,” said Rex. “When we woke up (Wednesday) morning and saw it was a Category 4 that freaked us out a bit — as it should — by the time we said we should probably leave the Sheriff said it was too late.”
Rex and his family are from North Carolina where Hurricane Florence hit last month.
“We’re kind of accustomed to hurricanes, but they kind of deintensify by the time they get to us,” he said. “We just hunkered down and hoped for the best and prayed for the best.”
Rex's 6-year-old son, Isaac, enjoyed the winds and rain.
"I loved it," he exclaimed from his bike.
When the storm passed, they found they had much of Seaside to themselves. They spent the day bike riding and enjoying the breeze from their porch. It will be a memorable vacation.
“I would say we won’t forget it,” he said.