Hurricane Idalia Makes Landfall in Florida as a Dangerous Category 3 Storm
August 30, 2023
The center of Hurricane Idalia has slammed Florida’s Big Bend at dangerous Category 3 strength – inflicting deadly storm surge and catastrophic winds not seen in that Gulf Coast area in 125 years. And its destruction is expected to keep unfolding far beyond the landfall zone.
Idalia’s core hit shore Wednesday morning near Keaton Beach, around where the panhandle meets the peninsula. As of 9 a.m. ET, it was whipping top sustained winds of 110 mph as it threatened inland Florida and the Georgia and South Carolina coasts with intense flooding, ferocious winds and tornadoes, the National Hurricane Center said.
In the vulnerable island city of Cedar Key, a water level record was shattered amid 8 to 9 feet of storm surge. And the water was still rising fast – predicted to hurl seawater as high as halfway up the second floor of an average building.
Even before landfall, the city looked “almost apocalyptic,” resident Michael Bobbitt said early Wednesday. Hours later, the disastrous storm surge had overwhelmed it.
“We’re effectively cut off from the world now,” Bobbit said. “It’s going to get a lot worse, and I’m really fearful for what we’re going to find in some of the low-lying areas and some of our older, more infirm citizens today.”
Do not try to “‘ride’ this one out,” police had told residents in the Big Bend city of Perry, warning storm surge higher than 15 feet is “not survivable if you are caught in it.” Storm surge accounts for about half of all hurricane-related deaths, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
A rare extreme wind warning – issued in cases of life-threatening sustained winds of 115 mph or more – was issued for parts of the Big Bend region, including Dixie and Taylor counties: “Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter,” the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee warned. “Take action now to protect your life!”
A tornado watch is in place for nearly 12 million people across central and northern Florida and southeast Georgia until 3 p.m. Wednesday as conditions continue to deteriorate, with coastal streets and lots flooding in places including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Myers Beach as ocean water pushes ashore, rain pours down and winds whip.
And destruction is possible far behind Idalia’s forecast cone, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday morning. At least 11 tornado warnings already had been issued, with more possible – even in places “way outside the cone that you see on your TV screens,” he said.
***Note: FEMA has approved an Emergency Management Declaration for Tropical Storm Idalia, but has not issued a Major Disaster Declaration at this time. We will update you as more information becomes available.***
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