In Idalia’s wake, a path of destruction and the start of cleanup

In Idalia’s wake, a path of destruction and the start of cleanup


Cleanup is underway from Idalia’s path of destruction across the Southeast.

In Florida, some residents have returned to find their homes and businesses completely wiped out.

President Biden has signed a major disaster declaration for Florida and plans to travel there Saturday to get a firsthand look at the devastation.

Idalia’s toll from damage and lost economic activity is expected to be in the $12 billion – $20 billion range, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Florida Starts To Recover As Idalia Soaks US South With Rain
Debris in the canal after Hurricane Idalia in Horseshoe Beach, Florida, on Augist 31, 2023. 


Hurricanes and tropical storms are nothing new in the South, but the sheer magnitude of damage shocked Desmond Roberson as he toured what was left of his neighborhood in another state hit by Idalia’s wrath — Georgia.

Roberson took a drive through Valdosta on Thursday with a friend to check out damage after the storm, which first hit Florida Wednesday morning as a hurricane and then weakened into a tropical storm as it made its way north, ripping through the town of 55,000.

On one street, he said, a tree had fallen on nearly every house. Roads remained blocked by tree trunks and downed power lines, and traffic lights were still blacked out at major intersections.

“It’s a maze,” Roberson said. “I had to turn around three times just because roads were blocked off.”

The storm had 90 mph winds when it made a direct hit on Valdosta on Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.

“We’re fortunate this storm was a narrow one, and it was fast moving and didn’t sit on us,” Kemp told a news conference Thursday in Atlanta. “But if you were in the path, it was devastating. And we’re responding that way.”

Two deaths, one in Florida and the other in Georgia are being officially attributed to Idalia.

Tropical Weather
Jessica Long tries to free her niece’s bicycle from under a piece of her family’s destroyed vacation home, a two-bedroom trailer on blocks which was broken and scattered by storm surge, in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., on August 31, 2023, the day after the Hurricane Idalia hit.

Rebecca Blackwell / AP

Some 94,000 homes and businesses still had no power in Florida as of 5:30 a.m. EDT and roughly 34,000 had no electricity in Georgia, according to

As of 5 a.m. Friday, Idalia had become a post-tropical cyclone but was still packing 60 mph maximum sustained winds, the National Hurricane Center said. It was about 290 miles west of Bermuda and moving east-northeast at 16 mph.

It’s expected to approach Bermuda over the weekend, the hurricane center said. It issued a tropical storm watch for the island, saying it could see heavy rainfall with the potential for flash flooding.

“Gradual weakening is forecast through early Saturday. Restrengthening is possible over the weekend, and Idalia is expected to transition back to a tropical storm on Saturday,” the center said.

When the storm made landfall Wednesday in Florida, where it razed homes and downed power poles. It then headed northeast, slamming Georgia, flooding many of South Carolina’s beaches and sending seawater into the streets of downtown Charleston. In North Carolina, it poured more than 9 inches of rain on Whiteville, which flooded downtown buildings.

Thousands of utility linemen rushed to restore power in Florida but nearly 100,000 customers were still without electricity Thursday night.

Meanwhile, residents along the path of destruction returned to pick through piles of rubble that used to be homes.

James Nobles returned to the tiny town of Horseshoe Beach in Florida’s remote Big Bend to find his home had survived the battering winds and rain but many of his neighbors weren’t as fortunate.

“The town, I mean, it’s devastated,” Nobles said. “It’s probably 50 or 60 homes here, totally destroyed. I’m a lucky one.”

Residents, most of whom evacuated inland during the storm, helped each other clear debris or collect belongings – high school trophies, photos, records, china. They frequently stopped to hug amid tears. Six-foot-high watermarks stained walls still standing, marking the extent of the storm surge.

Florida Starts To Recover As Idalia Soaks US South With Rain
Members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Florida Task Force 1 help residents remove debris after Hurricane Idalia in Horseshoe Beach, Florida, on August 31, 2023.

Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the area with his wife, Casey, and federal emergency officials.

“I’ve seen a lot of really heartbreaking damage,” he said, noting a church that had been swamped by more than 4 feet of water.

Tammy Bryan, a member of the severely damaged First Baptist Church, said Horseshoe Beach residents consider themselves a family, one largely anchored by the church.

“It’s a breath of fresh air here,” Bryan said. “It’s beautiful sunsets, beautiful sunrises. We have all of old Florida right here. And today we feel like it’s been taken away.”

But unlike previous storms, Idalia didn’t wreak havoc on major urban centers. It provided only glancing blows to Tampa Bay and other more populated areas, DeSantis noted. In contrast, Hurricane Ian last year hit the heavily populated Fort Myers area, leaving 149 dead in the state.

Mr. Biden spoke to DeSantis and promised whatever federal aid is available.

The president used a news conference at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters to send a message to Congress, especially those lawmakers who are balking at his request for $12 billion in emergency funding to respond to natural disasters.

“We need this disaster relief request met and we need it in September” after Congress returns from recess, said Mr. Biden, who had pizza delivered to FEMA employees who have been working around the clock on Idalia and the devastating wildfires on Maui, Hawaii. 



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