The decade's most triggering comedy
Hurricane Idalia made landfall at Category 3 strength in Florida’s Big Bend at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, smashing into the town of Keaton Beach, just north of Steinhatchee, with fierce 125 mph winds. By 9 a.m., the center of the storm was 20 miles south-southwest of Madison and 45 miles south-southwest of Valdosta, Georgia, with winds reduced to 110 mph.
Idalia, called “an unprecedented event” by the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, is the most powerful storm to hit Florida’s Big Bend in over 125 years, triggering evacuation orders affecting tens of thousands of people.
Idalia had reached the speed of 156 mph as a Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico before hitting land, but dropped in intensity. The National Hurricane Center explained the storm was altering because of an eyewall replacement cycle. “This change in wind speed does not diminish the threat of catastrophic storm surge and damaging winds,” the NHC stated, warning that the storm surge could reach 12-16 feet.
“There will be impacts far beyond the eyewall,” Governor Ron DeSantis told a press conference in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning, noting that the area has already seen 11 tornado warnings, with more possible. “Don’t put your life at risk by doing anything dumb at this point,” the governor urged. “This thing’s powerful. If you’re inside just hunker down until it gets past.”
DeSantis has suspended tolls in counties targeted by the storm so residents could evacuate more quickly, and he’s declared a state of emergency for 49 Florida counties. Some 5,500 National Guard members have been assigned to aid evacuations and building defenses. Press conferences are scheduled throughout the day for updates from the governor that will be streamed on thefloridachannel.org and his Facebook page.
Speaking of the 30,000 and 40,000 utility linesman who are ready to go to work to address the inevitable outages — 25,000 are already in place — DeSantis stated, “They will immediately move to commence power restoration efforts. We’ve also been working with counties to make sure that they know that we have resources ready to deploy and we want to be helpful to support their efforts.”
The Big Bend area had not seen a hurricane this strong since the 19th century, the governor noted, stating, “I think that being safe is the appropriate thing and in erring on the side of caution is the appropriate thing.”
Video of the damage is streaming in. As footage shows, Horseshoe Beach was entirely submerged by the storm:
Here's the full video of the destruction of the Horseshoe Beach, FL camera moments ago. This camera was at least 10 feet above sea level. Waves were overtaking this camera during its final moments. https://t.co/y3ZAok0Ft0 pic.twitter.com/JUu8JGZwQG
— RadarOmega (@RadarOmega) August 30, 2023
Other videos showed the power of the storm:
— Aaron Jayjack (@aaronjayjack) August 30, 2023
— St. Pete Police (@StPetePD) August 30, 2023
— Derek Van Dam (@VanDamCNN) August 30, 2023
By 9:47 a.m., over 267,000 Florida customers were without power, poweroutage.us reported.
All flights out of Tampa were canceled on Tuesday. A U.S. military plane above the Tampa area took astonishing video of rare St Elmo’s Fire lightning strikes.
All aircraft on the installation have been evacuated/secured in preparation for #HurricaneIdalia . During the evacuation, the 50th ARS recorded St. Elmo’s fire, a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created in an atmospheric electric field. pic.twitter.com/tqUGhfm8iN
— MacDill AFB (@MacDill_AFB) August 29, 2023