Tropical Storm Idalia continued to barrel through the southeastern U.S. on Thursday after it made landfall as a powerful Category 3 storm in Florida, leaving three people reportedly dead in its wake.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Idalia was moving east toward the Atlantic Ocean and will move offshore the North Carolina coast later Thursday.
Despite Idalia's downgrade to tropical storm status as it made its way across southern Georgia, forecasters continued to warn of potentially dangerous storm surges, as well as tornadoes and more flooding in the Carolinas.
In Florida, local authorities said two men died in separate weather-related car crashes on Wednesday as Idalia struck the state. In Georgia, a local sheriff said a Good Samaritan who was helping deputies clear debris from a road was killed by a falling tree.
• Idalia was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday evening.
• The storm briefly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane before it made landfall in Florida's Big Bend region as a Category 3 on Wednesday morning.
• Two men were reportedly killed in Florida in two separate car crashes related to the extreme rain, authorities said. A third person who was helping deputies clear debris was reportedly killed by a tree.
Photos reveal Hurricane Idalia's path of destruction in Southeast
Three people have reportedly died since Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Wednesday morning, the first to hit the United States this season.
The eye of Tropical Storm Idalia left North Carolina on Thursday morning, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. When it made landfall early on Wednesday, then-Hurricane Idalia brought winds of 125 mph to Florida’s Gulf Coast. As it moved through Florida’s Big Bend region, the Category 3 storm ripped through homes and businesses. Storm surge on Florida’s coastline reached record highs of more than 8 feet in Cedar Key and over 4.5 feet in Tampa Bay.
Jewell Baggett searches for anything salvageable from the trailer home in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., after the passage of Hurricane Idalia, Wednesday, August 30, 2023. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
The remains of a destroyed home built atop a platform on piles are seen in Keaton Beach, Fla., following the passage of Hurricane Idalia, Wednesday, August 30, 2023. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
Good Samaritan reportedly killed in Georgia, marking 3rd Idalia death
According to local Georgia news outlet WSB-TV, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said two deputies were removing a tree from the road when two other people came by to help. When part of one tree was removed, a second tree fell on one of the men who came over to assist the officers. Paulk said the man died instantly, while the deputy was hospitalized with a brain bleed and injuries.
The director of Florida's Emergency Management Division warned earlier on Thursday to be careful while cleaning up after Idalia. He called out using a chainsaw specifically, warning to "please make sure when you're operating a chainsaw, you're doing it safely."
The death on Wednesday marks the third from Hurricane Idalia. Officials in Florida said two men died in separate extreme rain-related car crashes.
Frozen foods to grill during a power outage
For those still without power following Hurricane Idalia, the Tallahassee Democrat recommends grilling any frozen foods still sitting in your freezer before they go bad.
"A refrigerator will keep food cold for four hours after the power goes out, according to FEMA, and a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours. Avoid opening the doors as much as possible to keep the cool air in."
Peak hurricane season is now underway
Peak hurricane season is officially underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The 2023 season, which began in June, is already living up to the prediction made earlier this month by forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for an above-normal level of hurricane activity. NOAA scientists have predicted that the 2023 season, which runs until Nov. 30, could see a total of 14 to 21 named storms (with winds of 39 mph or more), six to 11 of which could become hurricanes.
Latest power outage stats
Power is slowly being restored to homes across the Southeast after strong winds and torrential rain from Tropical Storm Idalia. The current statistics from PowerOutage.us indicate that more than 274,000 homes are without electricity.
The worst-affected counties are:
Lowndes, Ga. — 24,342
Suwannee, Fla. — 23,310
Columbia, Fla. — 20,042
Chatham, Ga. —15,581
Hurricane Franklin closes New York State beaches
Beaches will be closed in New York on Thursday because of rip currents stemming from Hurricane Franklin, a Category 2 storm near Bermuda.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said: "As peak hurricane season approaches, the safety of all New Yorkers remains my top priority. With tropical storms and hurricanes affecting our beaches on Long Island, we are taking proactive steps to protect New Yorkers, and I urge everyone to remain vigilant."
Before and after Idalia
Maxar satellite imagery shows what Ozello, a community in Citrus County, looked like before and after Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane.
2023 Maxar Technologies via Getty Images
Dozens rescued after Idalia made 'significant damage' in Florida, says DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference on Thursday morning. (Reuters Video)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSanits said there had been 40 successful rescues made since last night after Idalia made "significant damage" across the state. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday morning, DeSantis said that 29 of the 40 rescues had been made by the National Guard. He added that "these efforts are continuing."
"We're gonna work hard to make sure people get what they need," he said.
Flights to Florida, Georgia resume ahead of busy Labor Day weekend
Tropical Storm Idalia may have caused airlines to cancel hundreds of flights this week, but the Associated Press reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is predicting Labor Day weekend will still be one of the biggest travel weekends this year. According to the AP, very few flights scheduled for Friday from Florida and Georgia have been canceled, and Tampa International Airport said it will resume normal operations early Thursday.
"Thursday figures to be the busiest day in U.S. airspace, with 52,203 flights scheduled, followed by 49,111 flights on Friday, according to the FAA. After a lull on Saturday and Sunday, flights are scheduled to pick back up Monday and Tuesday. The numbers include airline, military and some private flights.
The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen more than 14 million passengers from Friday through Wednesday, up nearly 11% over the same weekend last year."
Be wary of scammers
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie speaking Thursday morning. (Reuters Video)
At a briefing on Thursday morning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie warned people to be vigilant about scammers in the storm's aftermath.
“Scammers often attempt to take advantage of survivors,” he said.
Suspicious activity, like price gouging, can be reported to the state attorney general’s office at 866-966-7226.