Hurricane Idalia Wreaks Havoc Across Florida and Georgia, Inundating Extensive Coastal Areas

by Lucas Garcia
Hurricane Idalia

Hurricane Idalia touched down in Florida on Wednesday as a Category 3 storm, leaving a trail of destruction across a broad expanse of the Gulf Coast. The storm flooded residences and vehicles, converted roadways into watercourses, detached small boats from their moorings, and caused widespread power outages before moving into Georgia.

Approximately 438,000 households in both Florida and Georgia experienced power disruptions as floodwaters engulfed coastal roads. As the hurricane’s eye progressed inland, potent winds tore apart billboards, propelled sheet metal, and snapped towering trees.

The storm made its initial landfall in Florida’s sparsely populated Big Bend area, where the Panhandle merges into the rest of the state. The hurricane hit near Keaton Beach at 7:45 a.m., boasting maximum sustained winds of close to 125 mph (205 kph).

By midday Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that there were no confirmed deaths directly caused by the storm in Florida. However, fatal vehicular accidents occurred in two counties that could ultimately be attributed to the hurricane.

Emergency services, consisting of 5,500 National Guardsmen and search-and-rescue teams, were fully deployed. Their efforts concentrated on inspecting infrastructure, removing fallen trees, and conducting search operations in Florida’s remote regions. Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, indicated that due to the area’s sparse population, rescue missions could take longer than previous operations in more densely populated regions.

Downed trees and debris obstructed roadways on Cedar Key Island, while propane tanks erupted. RJ Wright, a resident who remained on the island, experienced waist-deep water but noted that the island was fortunate to have avoided a direct hit.

Continuing its destructive path, the hurricane maintained its status as it moved into Georgia, with peak winds reaching 90 mph (150 kph). The National Hurricane Center anticipates that the storm will proceed deeper into the Atlantic over the weekend.

In Perry, a town in Florida, powerful winds shattered shop windows, ripped building siding, and flipped a gas station canopy. Infrastructure in both states, including key interstate highways, was severely impacted by flooding and fallen power lines.

Residents from Wakulla County, Florida, evacuated upon receiving an urgent warning from a family member. Hotels as far away as Alabama were at capacity with evacuees.

The National Weather Service described the event as “unprecedented,” particularly because no major hurricanes had historically passed through the adjacent bay to the Big Bend. Meanwhile, utility workers numbering over 30,000 are assembling to expedite repair efforts in the affected regions. Airports, including Tampa International Airport, plan to resume commercial operations imminently.

In Valdosta, Georgia, the storm’s violent winds uprooted trees and led to property damage, though no injuries were reported. Concerns also loomed over the storm surge coinciding with a higher-than-usual tide, posing threats to marinas and docks.

Bermuda is on alert as the storm could potentially reach the island as a tropical storm early next week. Federal assistance has been pledged to affected states, confirmed by a call between President Joe Biden and Governor DeSantis.

Contributors to this report include Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Mike Schneider in St. Louis, Missouri; Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Curt Anderson in Orlando, Florida; Chris O’Meara in Clearwater, Florida; Cristiana Mesquita in Havana; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Tara Copp in Washington; and Julie Walker in New York.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hurricane Idalia

What category was Hurricane Idalia when it made landfall in Florida?

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph (205 kph).

Where did Hurricane Idalia first make landfall?

The hurricane first touched down in the sparsely populated Big Bend area of Florida, near Keaton Beach.

How many households lost power due to the hurricane?

Approximately 438,000 households in Florida and Georgia experienced power disruptions due to the storm.

Were there any confirmed deaths directly attributed to Hurricane Idalia in Florida?

As of midday Wednesday, there were no confirmed storm-related deaths in Florida, according to Governor Ron DeSantis.

What areas are involved in the search-and-recovery efforts?

State officials, 5,500 National Guardsmen, and search-and-rescue teams were focused on inspecting infrastructure, clearing fallen trees, and conducting search operations in one of Florida’s most rural regions.

How is the hurricane affecting Georgia?

The hurricane maintained its status as it moved into Georgia with top winds reaching 90 mph (150 kph). Infrastructure was also severely impacted, including key interstate highways.

What precautions are being taken for the storm surge?

Some counties implemented curfews to keep residents off roads, as storm surges could rise as high as 16 feet (4.9 meters) in some places.

What federal assistance is being offered?

President Joe Biden has assured Governor Ron DeSantis that federal support would be available to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.

Are airports operational in the affected regions?

More than 30,000 utility workers are assembling to expedite repair efforts, including at airports. Tampa International Airport plans to resume commercial operations either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

How is Hurricane Idalia different from previous hurricanes in the region?

The National Weather Service described the event as “unprecedented,” particularly because no major hurricanes had historically passed through the bay adjacent to the Big Bend.

More about Hurricane Idalia

  • National Hurricane Center Updates
  • Florida Department of Emergency Management
  • Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency
  • Latest from Governor Ron DeSantis
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Resources
  • National Weather Service Alerts
  • Tampa International Airport Announcements
  • Utility Outage Maps for Florida and Georgia
  • Road Closures and Curfew Information
  • Real-time Storm Tracking and Forecast Models

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Tim A. August 31, 2023 - 1:29 am

anyone know how Cedar Key is doing? Got family there and I’m really worried.

Bill Thompson August 31, 2023 - 5:45 am

Our prayers are with everyone affected. This is absolutely devastating.

Janet Simmons August 31, 2023 - 11:37 am

Been through hurricanes before but this one? This ones different. A lot worse.

Mariana L. August 31, 2023 - 7:10 pm

This is a wake up call for climate change, folks. When will we start taking it seriously?

Steve Johnson August 31, 2023 - 8:02 pm

Wow, can’t believe the scale of this disaster. Stay safe everyone.


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