Idalia knocks out power, heads to Georgia

Hurricane Idalia winds map
A map showing sustained wind patterns for Hurricane Idalia. The purple zone indicates more than a 90% chance of wind at a tropical storm level or higher.
Source: National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Idalia hammered the Big Bend region as a Category 4 storm, plowing into Taylor County early Wednesday and continuing north into Georgia throughout the morning.  

Updates from the National Weather Service showed the storm’s path continued sliding westward and maps after 5 p.m. on Tuesday showed all of Alachua and Gilchrist counties outside of the cone.  

Still, on Wednesday morning, nearly 12% of electric customers had lost power in Alachua County, according to Gainesville Regional Utilities reported nearly 8,000 customers without power at 9 a.m., but crews were able to drop that number to 2,500 customers an hour later. 

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The Clay Electric Co-op reported power loss to 8,200 customers as of 10 a.m. 

The city of Gainesville and Alachua County issued morning updates, urging residents to stay indoors as the area remains under a hurricane warning and flood watch. Strong winds will continue through the morning and into the afternoon. 

“We may experience periods of extreme wind from the storm’s outer bands over the next several hours,” a Gainesville release said. “Falling trees and downed power lines are still a concern, as is the possibility of tornadoes.”    

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said on Facebook that power outage assessment will start as weather allows.  

“As soon as the wind dies down, our crews will start making assessments and get everyone’s power back on,” Marlowe wrote. “The winds are expected to remain too high for that to happen until this afternoon though.” 

Officials still expect 4 to 6 inches of rain over the course of the storm.  

Around 10 a.m., Gainesville Fire Rescue deployed eight people to Marion County to join Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 8.  

Cedar Key continues receiving storm surge as of mid-morning. According to Cedar Key Fire Rescue, the water could continue into the town until noon.  

“Most of the streets around the downtown area are underwater,” the department said in a Facebook post. “We cannot get out at this time to see just how bad things are. Please do not come to Cedar Key.” 

The department also reported that downed trees had blocked access to the back part of the island and that the marina had come completely out of its banks.  

During a Wednesday morning press conference in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the storm reached Category 4 status (sustained winds of at least 130 mph) just before making landfall in Taylor County. 

“The national hurricane center expects storm surge to reach 16 feet in some areas of the Big Bend region,” DeSantis said. “That level of storm surge is life-threatening.” 

On Tuesday DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis announced the activation of the Florida Disaster Fund to support those communities hit by Hurricane Idalia.  

Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the activation of the Florida Disaster Fund to support communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia. The fund, a component of the Volunteer Florida Foundation, accepts tax-deductible gifts online to aid disaster recovery efforts.  

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