Florida faced widespread flooding on Wednesday following the passage of Hurricane Idalia, now downgraded to a tropical storm, which downed trees and power lines in its path and devastated the state of Georgia.
Idalia, which was carrying winds of up to 150 km/h, made landfall at 7:45 a.m. local time near Keaton Beach, Florida, as a category 3 hurricane on a scale of 5, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Rising water levels have been rapid in some cities, but the state has not yet reported any deaths, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference.
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Other towns saw the water level rise at high speed, such as Cedar Key, located on the coast, which reported waves of more than 2 meters, a record level for the area. In some places, like Tampa, flooding has forced residents to move with their belongings on their heads or even in kayaks.
Despite the damage, authorities appear to believe that the worst has been avoided. “We were saved and blessed,” said Levy County Sheriff Robert McCallum. President Joe Biden, however, reminded that we must “remain alert” as the storm continues its path through the southeastern United States.
Almost 300,000 homes were without power on Wednesday in Florida and more than 200,000 in Georgia, according to the specialized site Poweroutage.us.
“Idalia is the most powerful storm to make landfall in this part of Florida in more than 100 years,” said Deanne Criswell, head of the federal agency in charge of responding to natural disasters (Fema), adding that 1,500 personnel had been deployed federal.
US President Joe Biden spoke again on Wednesday with Ron DeSantis, as his presidential candidate in 2024, to show his support and coordinate the federal response, he said.
Tampa International Airport, closed due to the hurricane, will reopen on Wednesday afternoon, while flights have been disrupted on the east coast of the United States, hit by another hurricane, Franklin, coming from the Atlantic.
In far western Cuba, heavy rains generated by Idalia also caused flooding and power outages.
At the end of September 2022, Florida had already been hit by Hurricane Ian, which left nearly 150 dead and caused significant damage as it passed through the southwest of this state.
Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the planet warms due to climate change. “I don’t think anyone can continue denying the effects of climate change. “Just look around us,” said Joe Biden, citing the “historic floods” or the recent devastating fires in Hawaii and Canada.