Hurricane Idalia has hit Florida in a big way.
The center of 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.
— Arthur JS (@AJS9619) August 30, 2023
Water levels continue to rise in FL from Tampa Bay- Panama City as Hurricane #Idalia makes landfall. The NOAA tide station at Cedar Key is at 6' above normal high tide and rising. Get the real-time data: https://t.co/xeMuNhlWrw
All of NOAA's #Idalia info: https://t.co/qBK4fxJo51 pic.twitter.com/L90hjjXT4S
— NOAA's Ocean Service (@noaaocean) August 30, 2023
— St. Pete Police (@StPetePD) August 30, 2023