On Wednesday, Hurricane Idalia struck land as it continued its path toward Florida’s Gulf Coast. This prompted mandatory evacuations in coastal regions prone to flooding. Simultaneously, South Carolina declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm’s impact.
Idalia rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to a hurricane on Tuesday, shortly after moving past the western part of Cuba. Its passage through Cuba led to property damage and the inundation of villages.
Later on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he may have to alter his schedule as a result of Idalia
Biden said he had spoken with the governors of all potentially affected states and reassured them that the federal government would provide any help required.
Asked if he was making contingency plans for his travel schedule for the Labor Day weekend or his planned participation in the Group of 20 leaders summit in India, Biden said, “Well I may, I just don’t know yet.”
Idalia came ashore at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT) at Keaton Beach, an ocean-front community of 13,000 people. The town is at the center of the Big Bend region, where the state’s northern panhandle curves into the Florida Peninsula.
“It’s just ripping through Taylor County now. Hope all is safe,” County Commissioner Jamie English told the Reuters news agency. “Winds gusting. Terrible power outages all over. Debris flying everywhere.”
Millions of the state’s residents fled to higher ground on Wednesday, as Idalia intensified into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane.
Any storm which reaches Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay adjoining the Big Bend.
And UBS anticipates Idalia to end up resulting in an insurance cost of some $9.36 billion (€8.57 billion), based on preliminary estimates, the brokers said Wednesday.
Idalia is the fourth major hurricane to hit Florida in the last seven years, after Irma in 2017, Michael in 2018 and Ian, which peaked at Category 5, in September 2022.