Hurricane Idalia continued its path across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, after making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane over Keaton Beach, in Florida’s Big Bend region.
Idalia rapidly intensified over the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, at one point registering as a Category 4 before it made landfall as a Category 3 and then quickly downgraded.
It hit Florida’s Big Bend area with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, according to national news reports.
It then made its way across the state, moving to the Carolinas, before heading out to sea.
As Idalia continued its path out of the region, Tampa Bay began returning to normal.
Students returned to school, public buses began rolling again and garbage collection services resumed.
While not making a direct hit in Tampa Bay, Idalia’s storm surge caused flooding and disrupted life’s routine activities as the hurricane made its way through the Tampa Bay region.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Pasco and Hillsborough counties. Schools shut down. Local governments ceased regular services and focused efforts on emergency operations.
Hospitals moved patients.
People headed to shelters, or stayed with friends and family. Some residents filled sandbags and hunkered down, hoping to keep Idalia’s stormwaters from entering their homes.
Pasco County lifted its evacuation orders, as flooding subsided west of U.S. 19.
According to a county report issued last week, Pasco Fire Rescue carried out 85 rescue missions, saving at least 150 people, who ranged from 9 days to 90 years old.
GoPasco provided rides to shelters for about 180 people.
The county reported that 350 people had stayed in Pasco shelters, along with 170 pets.
By Aug. 31, the county had closed all of its shelters except for the Fasano Regional Hurricane Center in Hudson, which is open to special needs and displaced residents only.
Storm surge in some areas of Tampa Bay overtopped seawalls, and flooded streets and buildings, according to television news reports.
Tampa International Airport was temporarily closed, as were bay area bridges.
Assessments were still being made last week, to tally up the damage.
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news briefing on the morning of Aug. 31, noting that as of that time no deaths had been reported that were directly linked to the hurricane.
“I think those officials in those really hard-hit counties, I think did a good job. I think citizens responded very appropriately,” he said.
DeSantis said officials would be touring through substantially damaged areas to get a better assessment of damage.
In his tours on the previous day, he said, he saw a massive amount of debris.
“You have a lot of trees in this part of the state. There were trees knocked down and they would knock down power lines. You did see structural damage to buildings. I saw roofs torn off of businesses. We saw other types of hurricane damage.
“Ian was different because where that hit.
“It came in basically at a Category 5 and it was in a much more populated area — more opportunity to have destruction.”
In Idalia’s case, the debris was in a less-populated, heavily wooded area, which is going to take a considerable effort to clean up.
Hundreds of thousands of Floridians lost power during Idalia, but the vast majority of customers had already had their electricity restored.
In some cases, it will take longer to restore the power because structural repairs must be made, DeSantis noted. “If it’s reconnected, we’re going to have the people there to get that done. If it’s rebuilt, there’s just more that goes into that.”
Kevin Guthrie, who leads the state’s disaster response efforts, also noted that some areas are sparsely populated, so there may be miles of power lines between individual customers.
Because of that, it will take longer to fully restore services, he said.
Guthrie also asked residents who are in cleanup mode to take precautions.
“Please make sure that when you are operating a chainsaw, you’re doing it safely. Please make sure that you’re wearing goggles, that you’re covering your head, protecting your head.
“If you do not know how to operate a chainsaw, do not do it.
“Do not get on ladders.
“It’s generator safety, it’s chainsaw safety, it’s ladder safety.
“Those are the three big things that end up causing people to have deaths in post-disaster impacts. All of those are avoidable deaths,” Guthrie said.
“Do not get on a ladder, on the top rung, with a chainsaw in one hand, trying to hang on with the other one to cut off a limb. That is not the way to do this, folks.
“Call in somebody to get that done,” he said.
“Generators need to be 20 feet away from all open windows and open doors — that includes your garage. Do not run generators in your garage. Get it away from your home,” he added.
“Volunteer organizations are your best bet in getting help on chainsaw operation, debris removal on your private property,” he said. He encouraged residents to reach out to the state’s emergency operations or to local emergency operations to get a list of disaster volunteer organizations who can help.
Guthrie also urged consumers to be on the lookout for scams involving unlicensed contractors.
Insurance claim pointers (Even if you didn’t have damage this time, this guidance might help in the future.)
- Once it is safe to do so, assess your property, take pictures and contact your insurance provider immediately to begin the claims process.
- Flooding is often covered by “comprehensive auto insurance policies,” but since Floridians are not required to carry this type of coverage, some may not be protected.
When a car has been partially or totally submerged, AAA offers these pointers:
- Do not attempt to start a vehicle, if the water level rose above the door opening and the interior of the car is wet. Doing so could cause major problems, if flood water is contaminated with engine oil or other vehicle fluids.
- Take photos from the exterior of the vehicle. Do not open the doors, if the water levels are still high.
- Once the waters have receded, take photos of the interior.
Avoid self-inflicted flood damage while driving:
- Do not drive down flooded streets. You may not realize how deep it is or what lurks beneath.
- If you drive through a flooded area with water above your doors and your engine cuts off, do not try to restart it. Doing so could flood the engine, causing severe damage. Evacuate the vehicle through the window, go to a safe location and get help.
Wind vs. Water damage to your home
Damage caused by wind and debris is covered by a resident’s homeowners insurance policy, but doesn’t cover flood damage. That is covered by a separate policy provided by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Homeowners without flood insurance can apply for federal disaster assistance via a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but those loans must be repaid.
If your home suffers damage
- Document the damage as soon as possible. Take photographs and videos. The more documentation you have, the easier it is to file your claim.
- Do what you can to prevent further damage. For instance, use plastic to cover broken windows or tarps on the roof to keep the rain out.
- Document any out-of-pocket expenses for repairs and displacement, such as tree removal, tarps, ice chest, hotel costs and so on. These can count toward your deductible.
- Be leery of contractors who go door-to-door offering services and offering to file a claim on your behalf.
- Hire a contractor to make the repairs after an insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.
If your home is destroyed or uninhabitable, find a safe place where your family can stay while repairs are made. The loss-of-use coverage in a standard homeowners insurance policy typically helps pay for your family’s lodging, as long as the damage is part of a covered claim. Check your policy or ask your insurance agent to make sure you have this coverage, to determine its monetary value and its time limits.
Published September 06, 2023