Tropical Storm Idalia Drenches Southeast with Heavy Rains and Floods after Slamming Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia Drenches Southeast with Heavy Rains and Floods after Slamming Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia continued its trek up the Southeastern United States on Wednesday night, leaving flooding and damage in its wake after making landfall in Florida

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Tropical Storm Idalia continued its trek up the Southeastern United States on Wednesday night, leaving flooding and damage in its wake after making landfall in Florida as a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday morning.

Most Latest Map of Tropical Storm Idalia. Photo by CNN via Mapbox

The storm dumped torrential rainfall across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, unleashed damaging winds, caused widespread power outages and killed at least two people after trees fell on them. Coastal communities experienced the brunt of the storm, with many reporting feet of storm surge flooding homes and businesses.

Idalia made landfall Tuesday around 3:30 a.m. near Keaton Beach, Florida, about 100 miles north of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds around 85 mph. It gradually weakened as it moved northward across the Southeast. But its heavy rains continued falling in Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night, with some areas receiving over 10 inches of rainfall.

On Wednesday, the rising tide inundates the boardwalk at Florida's Clearwater Harbor Marina. Photo by: Miguel Rodriguez/AFP/Getty Images

Record Storm Surge Swamps Florida Coastal Cities

When Idalia came ashore, it brought devastating storm surge to Florida's Big Bend area, which wraps around the state's peninsula. In Cedar Key, located on an island off Florida's Gulf Coast, the storm surge reached 8-9 feet, shattering previous water level records.

"Cedar Key looked almost apocalyptic," said resident Michael Bobbitt, who rode out the storm on the island and described the scene Wednesday morning as one of total destruction from the winds and flooding.

On Wednesday morning, downtown Tarpon Springs, Florida, grapples with inundation as floodwaters surge through the area. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The storm surge also overwhelmed other coastal cities like Crystal River, where the city manager said they had 8 feet of water surge inside their City Hall.

"Crystal River was decimated," said City Manager Doug Baber on Wednesday. "We had 8 feet of storm surge come inside City Hall. It's gone."

Further south, cities like Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Myers Beach also experienced significant flooding from Idalia's surge and rainfall, which left roads impassable in many coastal areas.

At least 150 Rescued from Floodwaters in Florida

As Idalia moved northward on Wednesday, emergency crews in Florida transitioned from storm preparation and response to search and rescue operations. In hard-hit Pasco County, just north of Tampa, authorities conducted over 80 rescues and evacuated more than 150 people from floodwaters, and mentioned it through the Facebook post.

Pasco County Fire Chief Tony Perez said calls for rescue started coming in around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday as water levels rose, and intensified after 6 a.m. as conditions rapidly deteriorated. Among those saved were newborns, the elderly, and people trapped in homes with waist-deep water.

Citrus County, home to Crystal River, also saw extensive rescues. Sheriff Mike Prendergast warned residents not to enter remaining floodwaters due to hidden dangers and contamination.

On Wednesday in Tarpon Springs, Florida, Makatla Ritchter and her mother Keiphra Line navigate through floodwaters, demonstrating resilience in the face of the deluge. Photo by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said search and rescue teams have combed 75% of the impacted areas and will conduct secondary searches to ensure no one is still trapped or missing. He said so far there are no reports of drowning deaths from the storm's flooding.

At Least 2 Killed by Falling Trees in Florida and Georgia

While flooding appeared to spare lives, Idalia's strong winds proved fatal for at least two people who were hit by falling trees on Wednesday.

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The Florida Highway Patrol reported two separate fatal accidents from trees toppling onto cars during the storm's severe weather. The incidents occurred in Marion and Polk counties. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mentioned one unconfirmed storm-related death on Wednesday.

In Georgia, the Lowndes County sheriff said a man cutting a fallen tree was struck and killed by another falling tree, also a victim of the storm's winds.

Damage Assessments Underway, Some Still Without Power

Now that Idalia has passed, local and state agencies have begun assessing damage, clearing roadways, and calculating the costs for repairs and rebuilding.

Across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, over 330,000 customers remained without power as of late Wednesday, with utilities working to restore downed lines. Some coastal Florida counties also issued boil water notices due to potential contamination of supplies.

In the wake of Hurricane Idalia's fury, a vehicle stands partially submerged in Cedar Key, Florida, portraying the aftermath of the storm's impact. Photo by: Julio-Cesar Chavez/Reuters

Florida's governor said 30 school districts closed by the storm are expected to reopen Thursday, and another 8 on Friday. Hospitals that evacuated ahead of Idalia's arrival also reported minimal building damage, with most expecting to resume normal operations within 24 hours.

The Florida emergency management director said the initial damage costs are still being tallied, but will likely be significant given the scale of flooding.

Flooding Remains a Concern Across the Southeast

While Idalia weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm, its torrential rainfall continued causing flooding emergencies across the region on Wednesday.

Charleston, South Carolina recorded its fifth highest storm surge ever late Wednesday at over 9 feet. "Major coastal flooding reported at Edisto Beach and Downtown Charleston," the National Weather Service stated, adding that the ocean had breached the city's historic battery.

Forecasters said an additional 4 to 10 inches of rain could fall through Thursday in already saturated areas of Georgia and the Carolinas, leading to more dangerous flash flooding. Rivers were also projected to reach moderate or major flood stages.

Tornadoes Possible as Storm Exits

As Idalia swirls northward off the Carolina coastline on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said isolated tornadoes remained a threat, especially across eastern North Carolina's fragile Outer Banks region.

A confirmed tornado damaged several buildings and flipped a vehicle in Goose Creek, South Carolina on Wednesday. No major injuries were reported.

Residents Across Southeast Urged to Stay Vigilant

Emergency management agencies across the Southeast are urging residents to remain alert as threats from Idalia continue, even as the storm loses intensity.

They advise staying off roads where possible due to potential unseen dangers such as downed power lines and orphaned debris. And with more rains in the forecast, flooding could persist or return to areas that already experienced heavy inundation earlier this week.

Idalia serves as the latest reminder of the ferocity and dangers hurricane season brings to coastal states each year. But thankfully, due to accurate forecasts, early preparations and emergency response efforts, the storm's damages and casualties were not more widespread.

As residents pick up the pieces, they'll have a tale to tell future generations about the summer they survived and rebuilt from Hurricane Idalia's wrath.

Summarised from the original article By Christina Maxouris, Holly Yan and Nouran Salahieh for CNN

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