Tropical Storm Idalia is still pounding the Southeast’s Atlantic coast, bringing flash flood warnings in North Carolina as communities across Florida’s west coast survey extensive damage from the most powerful hurricane to slam its Big Bend region in more than a century.
FOLLOW LIVE IDALIA UPDATES
After making landfall Wednesday in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane, the storm carved its way through southern Georgia and South Carolina. Dozens of people were rescued, and still hundreds of thousands have no power, some are under boil-water orders and some coastal communities far from the landfall zone face a flood risk Thursday morning.
“The combination of storm surge and tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the National Hurricane Center said, noting water could rise up to 4 feet along North Carolina.
Between 2 and 5 inches of rain have fallen in parts of southeastern North Carolina, including the Wilmington area, where a flash flood warning was in effect early Thursday, the National Weather Service said. Parts of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties were under the warning.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible.
The storm earlier wreaked havoc as it smashed into Florida’s Big Bend area – between the panhandle and peninsula – near Keaton Beach, ripping off roofs and flooding homes as it pushed feet of seawater onshore along a wide swath of the state’s west coast.
Many places that bore the brunt “don’t necessarily have the resources” to handle such a powerful hurricane, said US Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who represents a South Florida district and used to lead the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
“This is a life-changing event for some of these counties.”
In pictures: Hurricane Idalia
Officials urged thousands to evacuate before storm surge caused record-high water levels from Tampa Bay through the Big Bend. The storm also downed power lines and flooded parts of Georgia and South Carolina, including Charleston.
In Charleston, the storm tore down trees and led officials to close flooded roads, police said. Water also breached dunes at South Carolina’s Edisto Beach, the National Weather Service said.
TRACK IDALIA’S PATH
There was “one unconfirmed fatality” in Florida in the storm’s aftermath, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.
Here are other developments from the storm as of early Thursday:
• Flood rescues: First responders rescued about 150 residents from flooded neighborhoods in Florida’s hard-hit Pasco County, north of Tampa, the county fire rescue chief said. Some areas saw water surges between 3 and 5 feet.
• Thousands of homes damaged: Between 4,000 and 6,000 homes were inundated with water in Florida’s Pasco County alone, according to county administrator Mike Carballa.
• Historic water levels: South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor saw water its waters spike to higher than 9 feet, making it the fifth-highest level ever recorded, the National Weather Service said. Cedar Key, East Bay Tampa, Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg in Florida also experienced record storm surges.
• Thousands in the dark: As of early Thursday, about 150,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida. Another 110,000 outages were in Georgia, about 50,000 were reported in the Carolinas, PowerOutage.us reported.
• Residents urged to stay indoors: Florida officials are urging residents to avoid being outdoors as cleanup and search efforts remain underway. Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett cited the dangers of downed trees and power lines.
• Boil water advisory: Some areas in DeSoto, Dixie, Leon, Levy, Marion and Taylor counties in Florida are under boil water notices issued by the state’s health department.
• Some school districts to reopen: At least 30 of 52 school districts that closed ahead of the storm will be open again Thursday, DeSantis said. Eight districts are set to reopen Friday.
• Over the Carolinas: Idalia’s center as of 5 a.m. ET was about 45 miles south-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and forecast to move just offshore of North Carolina’s coast later Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for South Santee River northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A storm surge watch is in effect for Beaufort Inlet to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, as well as the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.
Storm surge impacts
Idalia is expected to maintain its tropical storm status as it moves off the East Coast Thursday morning. Heavy rainfall amounts over South and North Carolina “will continue to lead to areas of flash, urban, and moderate river flooding, with considerable impacts,” the hurricane center explained.
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Meanwhile, central Florida could see an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain Thursday.
On Wednesday, storm surge whipped up by Idalia set records for highest water level in several locations in Florida.
In Cedar Key, an island town about 80 miles north of Tampa, storm surge reached 8.9 feet, surpassing the 5.99 feet record set in 2016 from Hurricane Hermine.
Storm surge in Tampa’s East Bay was 5.7 feet Wednesday, roughly 2 feet higher than record seen in 2020 from Tropical Storm Eta.
And in Clearwater Beach, storm surge from Idalia reached 5.2 feet, eclipsing the 4.02 feet from the 1993 “Storm of the Century” that also snowed in much of the East Coast.