Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida at 7:45 a.m. today after strengthening into a Category 3 storm in the Gulf of Mexico.
Florida’s coastal residents were anticipating a surge of flood waters of up to 16 feet, with warnings posted from Sarasota to Apalachicola Bay, reported Reuters.
“We fear that residents will walk outside, see it’s sunny outside and think everything’s fine. But there’s more water coming,” said Rob Herrin, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesperson, as CNN reported. “There’s still so many hazards after the winds and rains have cleared.”
When Idalia made landfall sustained winds were 125 miles per hour, making it the strongest hurricane to hit Big Bend since records started in 1851, The Weather Channel said.
Idalia made landfall in Taylor County at Keaton Beach this morning at 7:45 a.m., reported Reuters. Waters had reached eight feet at a monitoring station in Steinhatchee, two feet higher than the flood stage of six feet.
“Folks, this storm is not over. If you are in a safe location, please remain there,” said Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley, pointing out that the cresting of local waterways would occur with high tide at 2:30 p.m., as Reuters reported.
Officials said there was widespread flooding and damage in Hillsborough County, an area with 1.5 million residents.
By 11 o’clock this morning, Idalia’s maximum sustained winds had lowered to 90 miles per hour, making the storm a Category 1 hurricane as it moved into Georgia and South Carolina, where hurricane warnings and other storm advisories have been issued.
“Idalia is likely to still be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia, and possibly when it reaches the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina late today,” the hurricane center said today, as reported by CNN.
More than 272,000 residences and businesses were experiencing power outages in Florida, according to PowerOutage.us.
Four to eight inches of rain could pummel the region through tomorrow, with some isolated places experiencing up to a foot of rain, warned the hurricane center, as Reuters reported.
“Time will tell on how bad it is… and we could have more” storms, said Deanne Criswell, administrator of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, as reported by Reuters. Criswell added that it has already been “a very active hurricane season.”
Florida has now had four major hurricanes in the last seven years, including last year’s Ian, Michael in 2018 and Irma in 2017.