Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Recovery Efforts Begin After Hurricane Idalia Impacts the US Southeast


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Idalia has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (mph). As of 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), Tropical Storm Idalia was located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina, moving northeastward at 20 mph. Tropical storm force winds are currently reaching outward up to 185 miles from the center of the storm. Hurricane Idalia initially made landfall around 8:00 a.m. EDT near Keaton Beach, along the coast of the Florida Big Bend, as a Category (Cat) 3 Hurricane with winds as high as 125 mph, an “unprecedented event” as Florida’s Big Bend region has never been directly impacted by a major hurricane on record. 

Hurricane Idalia – Earth Observatory: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 

 In Pasco County, Florida, first responders rescued roughly 150 residents from flooded neighborhoods within the community, where between 4,000 and 6,000 homes were inundated as a result of the storm surge and severe flooding. The community of Steinhatchee, Florida, experienced storm surge measuring up to 16 feet, prompting record-breaking water levels across a 200-mile stretch to Tampa Bay, Florida. The extreme storm surge was strong enough to reverse the flow of the Steinhatchee River at low tide, causing multiple sailboats to crash into a bridge located on the river as water levels rose to approximately eight feet. Significant storm surge also occurred in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, where water levels rose over nine feet on Wednesday, August 30, making it the fifth-highest reading on record. The NWS in Charleston reported “major coastal inundation” across Edisto Beach and Downtown Charleston, where water broke through the historic seawall, the Charleston battery. As of early Thursday morning, August 31, more than 300,000 homes and businesses were reporting power outages across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, according to PowerOutage.us.

As of August 31, local authorities have confirmed at least one fatality in Georgia as a result of Idalia. Florida Highway Patrol officials have also confirmed two fatalities due to separate, weather-related traffic accidents. According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has inspected and cleared all state bridges impacted by Idalia as of August 30, permitting first responders, local authorities, and utility linemen access to the impacted areas to initiate response and recovery efforts. President Biden approved an emergency declaration for South Carolina and a disaster declaration for Florida on August 31, authorizing federal assistance to support the ongoing response and recovery efforts within each State’s affected counties. 

Twitter: NHC 

Hagerty’s Director of Response Programs, Lee Mayfield, discussed with Bloomberg Television how climate change impacts have intensified the significance of storms over the past five years–a stark reminder as the first anniversary of Hurricane Ian approaches. Additionally, Hagerty’s Executive Chairman and former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, Brock Long, spoke with MSNBC about how the effects of climate change are impacting the insurance industry and increasing communities’ vulnerabilities to the impacts of disasters. In a discussion with Bloomberg Radio, Brock also noted how Idalia serves as a reminder that not all storms are coastal events. While tropical storms and hurricanes do hit coastal communities, they have the potential to affect inland communities and create a multitude of hazards for many people.

YouTube: Hagerty Consulting 

FEMA provides guidance to individuals preparing for, experiencing, or affected by hurricanes. During a power outage, FEMA encourages individuals to keep refrigeration sources closed, disconnect appliances to avoid damage from electrical surges, and keep up to date on heating, cooling, and other sheltering locations offered in the community. Power outages introduce many risks to a community’s safety and well-being, including disrupting access to communications, transportation, and other essential services. 

Additionally, during and in the aftermath of a disaster, access to drinking water may be limited or cut off. Under these circumstances, it is important to reduce activity levels and stay cool as best as possible to limit water intake while consuming the amount of water your body needs, avoid drinking contaminated water for as long as possible, and limit the consumption of carbonated and caffeinated beverages which may lead to increased dehydration. Upon the guidance of local emergency officials, it may be necessary to treat water to ensure it is safe for drinking, food preparation, or other household needs.