PERRY, Fla, August 30, 2023 – On Wednesday, Hurricane Idalia crashed into Florida’s Gulf Coast with howling winds, torrential rains, and pounding surf, then lessened as it turned its fury on southeastern Georgia, trapping some inhabitants in their houses.
Authorities were still trying to estimate the entire extent of damage in the hardest-hit areas hours after Idalia slammed ashore as a catastrophic Category 3 storm at Keaton Beach in Florida’s Big Bend region, carrying winds of around 125 mph (201 kph). At lunchtime, video footage and images from the region around Idalia’s landfall showed ocean waters sweeping over highways and neighborhoods flooded. There were several power disruptions.
Strong winds took down the roof of a gas station in Perry, a town of approximately 7,000 people about 20 miles (32 km) inland and north of where Idalia landed. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated at a late-afternoon news conference that no storm fatalities had been recorded and that it appeared most residents in dangerous, low-lying areas had heeded evacuation orders and warnings to move to higher ground.
However, earlier in the day, the Florida Highway Patrol reported that two motorists perished in separate rain-related crashes on Wednesday morning. Later, DeSantis stated that state investigators were looking into one unsubstantiated storm-related traffic death.
Losses Are Estimated To Be $9 Billion Or More
Insured property damages in Florida are expected to total $9.36 billion, according to investment bank UBS. Despite this, Idalia proved to be significantly less catastrophic than Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 storm that hit Florida last September, killing 150 people and causing $112 billion in damage.
Up to 565,000 utility customers lost power at some point during and after the storm. DeSantis was speaking in Perry, which, along with other portions of Taylor County, was hit hard by the storm. Electricity was out across the town, shops were closed, and many homes were vacant.
Florida Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue stated during a press conference that state National Guard teams were conducting car water rescues in Hernando and Taylor counties. Residents were spotted removing fallen trees and limbs that cluttered yards and roadways, making driving across town impossible. Some homes and other structures were destroyed.
As he strolled around Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Perry on Wednesday afternoon, Taylor County Commissioner Thomas Demps, 80, let out a long, stunned whistle and many exclamations of “Oh, my!”
The church suffered a battering, with missing shingles, pieces of the outside walls ripped away, and water standing on the floor.
“This is the worst storm I’ve ever seen here, I’ve never seen it this bad,” Demps, a retired industrial technician, remarked.
At least 75 people were rescued from floodwaters in St. Petersburg, Florida, around 200 miles (322 kilometers) to the south, city officials reported on social media, with video showing two emergency workers in a tiny boat navigating waterlogged streets under heavy rains.
Idalia made landfall in Florida’s primarily rural Big Bend region, where the state’s northern Gulf Coast panhandle curls onto the western half of the Florida Peninsula, as expected. Gainesville and Tallahassee, the state capital, are roughly surrounded by the area.
In 1896, a big hurricane ravaged the same region, which had a marshy coast and was laced with freshwater springs and rivers. Idalia gained power after crossing western Cuba as a tropical storm on Monday, feeding on the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico as it churned toward Florida.
The cyclone brought damaging winds and severe rains, causing flooding up to 16 feet (5 meters) deep along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The governor announced 12 hours after landfall that no drowning casualties had been discovered in the storm surge.
Here is a tweet about Hurricane Idalia strengthening to Category 2 as it begins to lash Florida ahead of a potentially catastrophic landfall on the state’s west coast.
Hurricane Idalia strengthens to Category 2 as it begins to lash Florida ahead of a potentially catastrophic landfall on the state's west coast https://t.co/2ZP4jC4awd
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 29, 2023
The National Hurricane Center predicted that the Gulf Coast of Florida, southern Georgia, and eastern parts of North and South Carolina will receive 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) of rain through Thursday, with up to a foot of rain possible in isolated spots.
Idalia’s center had shifted from Florida to Georgia by early Wednesday afternoon. State officials predicted that the storm would pass across Georgia by 8 p.m. EDT.
Emergency boat teams were rescuing residents stuck in homes in Valdosta, Georgia, roughly 80 miles northeast of Tallahassee. Cedric King, a businessman from Brunswick, Georgia, located south of Savannah, wasn’t about to take any chances.
“I packed up the family and headed north,” he stated after a five-hour journey with his mother, wife, and children. “We were evacuated.”
Officials warned that the storm’s most deadly aspect was a massive surge of wind-driven saltwater that flooded low-lying communities.
By midmorning, a storm monitoring station in Steinhatchee, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Keaton Beach, reported that water levels had risen to 8 feet (2.4 meters), well above the 6-foot (1.8-meter) flood stage. Crews were dealing with severe damage and flooded streets in Hillsborough County, a 1.5 million-person area south of the Big Bend region that contains Tampa.
Idalia reached Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale early Wednesday before landfall but had fallen to Category 3 by 7 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center.
Idalia’s wind gusts slowed to 90 mph when it approached southeastern Georgia, lowering the storm to a Category 1 hurricane. The NHC stated it had degraded to a tropical storm around 5 p.m. EDT.
You can also check some additional news below:
- Hurricane Idalia is Expected to Rapidly Intensify In The Extremely Warm Gulf of Mexico
- Why Are Flights Cancelled Today? Air Traffic Disruption