Tropical Storm Idalia: Flooding Threat Looms in North Carolina After Devastating Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia: Flooding Threat Looms in North Carolina After Devastating Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia continues to unleash its force along the Atlantic coast of the Southeast. The region is grappling with flash flood warnings in North Carolina, even as communities on Florida’s western coast assess the widespread destruction caused by the most potent hurricane to strike its Big Bend area in over a century.

After making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane in Florida on Wednesday, Tropical Storm Idalia swept through southern Georgia and South Carolina, leaving behind a trail of destruction and ongoing challenges.

Numerous rescues were carried out, yet hundreds of thousands remain without power. Some regions are facing boil-water advisories, while communities far from the initial landfall zone confront the risk of flooding on Thursday morning.

The National Hurricane Center warned that the combination of storm surge and tide could lead to coastal flooding in areas usually dry near the coast. Water levels could rise by up to 4 feet along North Carolina’s shoreline.

Southeastern North Carolina, including Wilmington, experienced rainfall between 2 and 5 inches, prompting flash flood warnings. Parts of several counties, such as Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender, were under these warnings.

LIVE UPDATES: Idalia’s wrath continues across GA, and the Carolinas

There’s also a possibility of isolated tornadoes occurring.

Florida’s Big Bend area, situated between the panhandle and the peninsula, bore the brunt of the storm’s fury during landfall. Roofs were torn off, homes were flooded, and seawater surged inland along a significant stretch of the state’s west coast.

Representative Jared Moskowitz, who formerly led the state’s Division of Emergency Management and represents a South Florida district, noted that some hard-hit communities lack the resources to cope with such a powerful hurricane. He explained that some areas may undergo permanent change due to the storm’s impact, calling it a life-changing event for certain counties.

The storm prompted evacuations in anticipation of storm surge, which brought record-high water levels from Tampa Bay to the Big Bend. Power lines were downed, and parts of Georgia and South Carolina, including Charleston, experienced flooding and other damage.

In Charleston, the storm toppled trees and forced the closure of flooded roads. At Edisto Beach in South Carolina, water breached the dunes.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida confirmed “one unconfirmed fatality” in the aftermath of the storm. Additionally, two men died in separate crashes linked to severe weather conditions, and another fatality was reported in Georgia’s Lowndes County, where a man was struck by a falling tree while cutting another tree on a highway.

Tropical Storm Idalia

Here are the latest developments from the storm as of early Thursday:

  • Flood Rescues: Approximately 150 residents were rescued from flooded neighborhoods in Pasco County, north of Tampa, where water surges reached between 3 to 5 feet.
  • Homes Damaged: In Florida’s Pasco County alone, an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 homes were affected by flooding.
  • Historic Water Levels: Charleston Harbor in South Carolina saw water levels exceed 9 feet, making it the fifth-highest recorded level. Record storm surges were also reported in Cedar Key, East Bay Tampa, Clearwater Beach, and St. Petersburg in Florida.
  • Power Outages: Around 150,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, with another 110,000 outages in Georgia and about 50,000 in the Carolinas.
  • Safety Precautions: Florida officials advised residents to stay indoors due to the presence of downed trees and power lines, which pose risks.
  • Boil Water Advisory: Specific areas in Florida’s DeSoto, Dixie, Leon, Levy, Marion, and Taylor counties are under boil water advisories issued by the state health department.
  • School Reopenings: Around 30 of the 52 school districts that closed ahead of the storm in Florida are expected to reopen on Thursday, with eight districts resuming classes on Friday.
  • Position and Forecast: As of 5 a.m. ET, Idalia’s center was situated about 45 miles south-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 60 mph. It is projected to move just off the coast of North Carolina later on Thursday. A tropical storm warning is in effect for regions north of the South Santee River to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. Additionally, a storm surge watch is in effect for Beaufort Inlet to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, and the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.

Impacts of Storm Surge:

Tropical Storm Idalia is anticipated to maintain its tropical storm classification as it moves off the East Coast during Thursday morning. The heavy rainfall across South and North Carolina is expected to result in various levels of flooding, including flash floods, urban flooding, and moderate river flooding, all of which will have significant consequences, according to the hurricane center’s explanation.

Meanwhile, central Florida could experience an additional 1 to 2 inches of rainfall on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the storm surge generated by Idalia led to record-breaking water levels in several Florida locations.

In Cedar Key, an island town located approximately 80 miles north of Tampa, the storm surge reached an astounding 8.9 feet. This figure surpassed the previous record of 5.99 feet established during Hurricane Hermine in 2016.

In Tampa’s East Bay, the storm surge measured 5.7 feet on Wednesday. This level was approximately 2 feet higher than the previous record observed in 2020 from Tropical Storm Eta.

At Clearwater Beach, the storm surge caused by Idalia reached a height of 5.2 feet. This exceeded the previous record of 4.02 feet from the infamous “Storm of the Century” in 1993, a storm that brought heavy snowfall to much of the East Coast.

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Hiroshi Tanaka

Hiroshi Tanaka, a tech enthusiast and MIT alumnus with a degree in Computer Science, is your source for all things tech-related. His analytical mind and passion for innovation shine through in his writing. Hiroshi's articles dissect the latest technological advancements, making even the most complex topics easy to understand. Stay informed and inspired by Hiroshi's insights.

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