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  • Writer's pictureLolita Chowdhury

Hurricane Idalia and Its Effects

Hurricane Idalia struck the Big Bend region of Florida in late August, instigating states of emergency in three states (Copernicus Sentinel-3 Satellite/Wikimedia Commons)

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and ended on November 30. Hurricane Idalia was the third hurricane of the season, and it primarily impacted the Big Bend region (panhandle) of Florida.

What Were the Events Leading Up to the Formation of Hurricane Idalia?

A low-pressure system began to form in the Eastern Pacific basin off the Central American coast on August 24. Within a couple of days, the system was upgraded to Tropical Depression Ten. The system was named Tropical Storm Idalia on August 27 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) after NOAA Hurricane Hunters reported the depression’s winds had increased to 40 mph while moving counter-clockwise in the Yucatan Channel west of Cuba. After passing the channel, Tropical Storm Idalia briefly upgraded to Category 1 (74-95 mph) status before it quickly became classified as a Category 2 hurricane (96-110 mph) as it continued to move northward through the Gulf of Mexico.

What Happened During Hurricane Idalia?

Hurricane Idalia reached its peak intensity of 130 mph on August 30 before it landed in the Big Bend region of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane Idalia weakened significantly as it stormed through Northern Florida and then into Southeastern Georgia as a tropical storm. As the system began to move northward, it was absorbed into Tropical Storm Gert. The system then dissipated around the coast of Atlantic Canada on September 7.

In Cuba, more than 10,000 people were evacuated in the western part of the country due to flooding concerns. As Hurricane Idalia approached Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis placed 33 counties under a state of emergency (SOE), declaring 13 more counties under an SOE two days later. The SOE closed school districts in those counties, along with 18 colleges and 6 universities. Additionally, ports began clearing waterways and all commercial flights to airports in that region were closed on August 29. The first mandatory evacuations began on August 28 in a few counties.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp declared an SOE on August 29. Similarly, school districts in several counties were closed and hurricane warnings were issued to seven counties. In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster declared an SOE on August 30 and canceled flights, mostly to and from Florida.

What Were the Effects of Hurricane Idalia?

In the Caribbean, heavy rainfall was recorded in the Yucatan Peninsula and other parts of Western Cuba. Fortunately, no deaths were reported as a result of Idalia in this region.

Hurricane Idalia has been reported as the most powerful hurricane to hit that portion of Florida since 1896. However, many forecasters have reported that the damage was not as severe as it could have been. Hours before making landfall, the wall around Idalia’s eye began to replace itself. This occurrence prevents hurricanes from intensifying. Additionally, the hurricane’s eye turned away from Florida’s capital of Tallahassee—home to roughly 200,000 people—to a much smaller coastal city. Nonetheless, estimates of the Idalia’s damage are roughly $3-5 billion.

In the U.S., ten people have reportedly been killed due to Idailia’s effects. In Florida, roughly 278,000 individuals lost power. In Georgia, that number was closer to 190,000. Fortunately, most residents had power back by August 31.

President Joe Biden approved disaster and emergency declarations for parts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has delivered federal disaster relief funds to counties in both Florida and Georgia.



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