Deadly Idalia weakens to tropical storm but still threatens Georgia and Carolinas with flooding after pummeling parts of Florida

Published: 3 weeks ago

Updated: 3 weeks ago

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Idalia weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday evening as it trekked across the Southeast, threatening parts of Georgia and the Carolinas with strong winds and flooding after pummeling parts of Florida.

Idalia was walking across the Southeast Wednesday evening when a tropical storm weakened, threatening parts of Georgia and the Carolinas with strong winds and flooding after hitting parts of Florida.

In Florida's Crystal River, water levels seemed to be dropping but still a high tide was expected, making the current flooding even more dangerous, city councilman Ken Frink told CNN Wednesday afternoon. \Right now, it's still a catastrophic event,\ Frink said.

In nearby coastal Pasco County, just north of Tampa, about 6,000 homes were flooded, according to an official. \\A lot of what we've seen has a lot of damage.

That means we have at least 18 inches or more of water going into these homes,\ Laura Wilcoxen, assistant director of Pasco County Emergency Management, told CNN.

The storm was whipping 70 mph winds and was about 40 miles west of Savannah, Georgia, according to a 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Storm surge, freshwater flooding and strong wind risks remain ongoing for parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, the center said.

The hurricane center said the center of Idalia will move near or along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina through Wednesday night before moving offshore off the coast of North Carolina on Thursday.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp said many counties in the southern part of the state saw strong winds on Wednesday and expected heavy rain.

The hurricane center said up to 10 inches of rain could fall from parts of east-central Georgia into central and eastern South Carolina and from eastern North Carolina through Thursday. \These rainfall amounts will lead to flash, urban and moderate river flooding with significant impacts,\ the center said.

Hurricanes are also possible in coastal South Carolina and coastal North Carolina through Wednesday night until Wednesday evening.

In Florida, the danger is not over, officials warn In storm-ravaged Florida, officials are warning that the danger is not over yet, although the skies are clearing.

There's still a lot of water coming into the Tampa Bay area, make sure you're not going through stagnant water,\ Wilcoxen said.

In Citrus County, which includes the Crystal River, Sheriff Mike Prendergast told CNN that the effects of the hurricane will \continue for a long time.\ \Where I'm standing right now could potentially be under 6 feet of water when we get to high tide,\ he said late Wednesday afternoon.

We are afraid that the inhabitants will walk outside, see that it is sunny outside, and think that everything is fine.

But more water is coming,\ warned Hillsborough County Fire Department Rescue spokesman Rob Herrin.

There are still too many dangers after the winds and rains have cleared.\\ Prendergast urged people not to enter the water that fills the streets.

The sheriff said, \Don't go out into that water, because it's salt water mixed with a lot of other things.\ \\It will destroy your vehicles and give you an expensive repair bill every time you cross the storm.\\ Follow Idalia here >> 2 killed in weather-related accidents Idalia, Florida's Big Bend region — the corner between the panhandle and the peninsula — struck with a dangerous Category 3 force near Keaton Beach on Wednesday morning.

This part of the Gulf Coast has not seen such deadly storm surge and gusts of wind in at least 125 years.

National Hurricane Center Director Michael Brennan said Wednesday that conditions in Florida will begin to slowly improve later today, but water levels will remain high — especially along the coast of Big Bend toward Tampa for much of the day today.

FOLLOW HURRICANE IDALIA LIVE UPDATES Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant Steve Gaskins said at least two people died in separate weather-related car crashes Wednesday.

Their deaths mark the first reported deaths linked to Cyclone Idalia.

In the vulnerable island city of Cedar Key, a water level record was set amid an 8- to 9-foot storm surge.

And the water was still rising rapidly — it was estimated that an average building would throw seawater up to half the length of its second floor.

Parts of Tampa, St.

Petersburg and Fort Myers Beach were also swallowed up by wind-whipped seawater and torrential rain.

We are now effectively cut off from the world' The island city of Cedar Key looked \almost doomed\ even before it landed, residents Michael Bobbitt said Wednesday morning.

Hours later, a catastrophic storm surge overwhelmed him.

Bobbit said, \We are now effectively cut off from the world.\ \\It's going to get a lot worse, and I'm really scared for what we're going to find today in some of the low-lying areas and some of our older, weaker citizens.\ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said storm surge accounted for about half of all hurricane-related deaths.

Here are other developments in the region: • Air travel halted: Hundreds of flights have been canceled as Tampa International Airport suspended commercial operations and the St.

Pete-Clearwater International Airport Terminal building closed on Tuesday.

The Tampa airport will reopen for inbound flights at 4 p.m.,\ DeSantis said Wednesday.

By 3 p.m. tomorrow, it will fully reopen.\\ The governor said airports in Gainesville and Tallahassee are also scheduled to reopen Thursday morning.

In Georgia, Savannah\/Hilton Head International Airport announced Wednesday that flights from the airport were canceled for the rest of the day. • Bridges closed: According to online data from the Florida Department of Transportation, major bridges connecting St.

Petersburg to the Florida mainland have been closed.

The Pinellas County Emergency Management said earlier on Twitter X that road access to the smaller barrier islands was also closed. • Power outage: About 262,000 homes, businesses and other electricity customers in Florida and about 208,000 people in Georgia were without power around 4 p.m.

Wednesday, according to • Evacuations in at least 28 counties: Alachua, Baker, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, Sarasota, Suwannee, Sumter, Taylor, Union, Volusia and Wakulla have issued evacuation orders, some of them mandatory.

The emergency declaration covers 49 of the 67 Florida counties.

Thousands in shelters: Red Cross data shows that about 4,500 people took refuge in shelters in the area of impact on Wednesday.

The relief group said the largest number of people — 442 — were in an area in Largo, Florida, where more than 100 shelters were open along the path of the storm. • Hospitals suspended services: Patients were being transferred from at least three hospitals: HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital, HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital and HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital.

Meanwhile, Tampa General Hospital was building a water-impermeable barrier to stay open for emergency care. • Schools and universities are closing: All 50 county school districts have closed, as have dozens of colleges and university systems in Florida.

Thousands of inmates evacuated: Nearly 4,000 inmates have been evacuated or moved to facilities better equipped to deal with the storm, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.


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