Hurricane Idalia churned into Georgia after knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of Florida customers, grounding more than 1,800 flights and unleashing floods along far from where it came ashore as a Category 3 storm earlier Wednesday.
(Bloomberg) — Hurricane Idalia churned into Georgia after knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of Florida customers, grounding more than 1,800 flights and unleashing floods along far from where it came ashore as a Category 3 storm earlier Wednesday.
Idalia’s top winds dropped to 75 miles (121 kilometers) per hour, making it barely a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale as it crossed Georgia, the US National Hurricane Center said in a 2 p.m. New York time advisory. The storm came ashore earlier as a Category 3 hurricane near Keaton Beach, Florida.
“Relatively fast weakening is anticipated through the rest of the day,” Robbie Berg, a forecaster at the center, wrote in his outlook. “Damaging hurricane-force winds will occur where the core of Idalia moves across southern Georgia and southern South Carolina within the hurricane warning area through this evening.”
While Idalia hit a sparsely populated area, it could still bring on $10 billion in damages as it moves across northern Florida into Georgia and South Carolina in the coming days, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research.
“There are a lot of mobile homes/manufactured housing inland, especially in south Georgia, that are not going to hold up well in these winds,” Watson said in an email. “The dollar value of this one won’t be as high — maybe $10 billion depending on how strong Idalia stays as it goes to the coast — but the impact on the people is going to be pretty high.”
No storm of this intensity has struck Apalachee Bay, near where Idalia made landfall, with a direct hit since modern record-keeping began in 1851, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee said Tuesday.
Some of the hardest-hit areas are Madison and Perry Counties, where there are widespread power outages and some businesses have caught fire, while others have had their roofs knocked off, said Kevin Guthrie, executive director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Water rose along the coast as Idalia’s surge came onshore. At Cedar Key, near where the storm made landfall, the tide gauge was 6.8 feet above the mean high tide, the hurricane center said.
Idalia brought flooding to most of Florida’s West Coast, with the area around Tampa Bay and Clearwater seeing water rising as much as 5.2 feet (1.6 meters), according to the National Ocean Service — and the flooding could get worse because of tides. In St. Petersburg, officials closed the pier and asked people to avoid the area. All across Tampa, social media videos show water threatening homes near the coast, cars stuck and flooding as Idalia’s outer bands lashed the region.
As of 2:10 p.m., 398,227 customers were without power in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to Poweroutage.us. In addition to the outages, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said 262,000 customers had power restored after losing it earlier. Blackouts are expected to spread into South Carolina and “residents in these areas should be prepared for long-duration power outages,” Berg said.
Tampa International Airport will reopen for incoming flights at 4 p.m. and be completely open by 3 a.m., DeSantis said in a video briefing. About 1,800 flights were canceled into and out of the US, with many cancellations at Tampa and Atlanta airports, according to FlightAware.
Idalia is the first major hurricane to hit Florida since last September. That’s when Hurricane Ian struck the western part of the state as a Category 4 storm, killing at least 150 people and causing more than $112 billion in damage.
Parts of Florida, Georgia and the eastern Carolinas are likely to see as much as 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of rain into Thursday, with up to a foot likely in some isolated areas, the National Hurricane Center said. Flash, urban and river flooding is likely, “with considerable impacts,” it added.
President Joe Biden approved federal emergency declarations for Florida, allowing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also declared an emergency Tuesday.
Idalia steered clear of most oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. But fuel markets are “effectively closed” with terminals shut in Tampa, Jacksonville, and Savannah until the storm passes, according to distributor Mansfield Energy. Kinder Morgan Inc. said Wednesday that it would close some South Carolina terminals
The Environmental Protection Agency is waiving summertime gasoline volatility requirements in Florida in attempt to boost fuel supply and keep prices low. The waiver allows sales of fuel with higher volatility through September 15. Higher volatility fuel can be made from a wider range of typically less costly components.
Most of the key citrus areas in central Florida shouldn’t be seriously impacted, World Weather Inc. President Drew Lerner said. Florida is the top orange-juice supplier in the US.
While some cotton crops could be damaged, along with fruits and vegetables, the main commodities of corn and soybeans should be fine, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist also with Maxar.
–With assistance from Jim Wyss, Anna Jean Kaiser, Chunzi Xu, Sheela Tobben and Dayanne Sousa.
(Updates with forecast starting in second paragraph)
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