Florida mobilizes rescue services as Idalia’s eye passes over state; some roads still impassable
Hurricane Idalia’s eye is shown over Georgia. (National Hurricane Center)
As Hurricane Idalia’s eye has crossed into Georgia, parts of the state remain inaccessible as officials begin recovery and inspection efforts, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday afternoon.
“The state is still being impacted by the storm’s bands, and we’re seeing that particularly in the northern part of the state,” DeSantis said at a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
The Florida National Guard is conducting high-water vehicle rescues in multiple parts of the state dealing with flooding and storm surges. State Road 24 into Cedar Key and State Road 51 into Steinhatchee remain impassable due to high water.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the most impacted area seems to be Perry, in Taylor County. Due to the low population density of the Big Bend, it will take longer for emergency services to clear houses in search and rescue efforts.
“I just want to go ahead and set expectations: some of this is going to take longer than what we experienced with the initial search and rescue in Fort Myers,” Guthrie said.
Meanwhile, DeSantis said at that time that there are 250,000 accounts out of power and still in need of restoration, primarily in the most affected counties: Dixie, Levy, Taylor, Suwannee, Madison, Jefferson and Columbia.
“We do anticipate that these power outage numbers could go higher, but the restoration numbers are going to go higher as well,” he said.
The governor also said that as of the press conference Wednesday afternoon, there were no fatalities as a result of the storm, a figure determined by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s medical examiners.
Tampa International Airport, Gainesville Regional Airport, and Tallahassee Regional Airport will be reopened by Thursday morning; Tampa and Manatee ports are currently undergoing assessments before they can resume normal operations.
Florida National Guard assets are on their way to affected counties to begin to clear roads and debris while Coast Guard rotary-wing assets have been activated. Major General John D. Haas, responsible for the mobilization of the Florida National Guard, said his outfit has been providing support with reconnaissance, search and rescue, and damage assessment operations.
In a statement Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said they have fully stocked distribution warehouses ready to be moved at the request of states affected by Idalia, as well as Incident Management Assistance Teams and three Disaster Survivor Assistance Strike Teams.
Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicles are currently in Florida, and the U.S. Coast Guard is on standby for search and rescue operations.
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