Storm could ramp up to a cyclone near Barbados, Saint Lucia

Hurricane Idalia spares Florida Keys, heading to the Carolinas

THE FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys is reporting no significant damage after Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida’s west coast yesterday, Aug. 30.

The National Hurricane Center discontinued a tropical storm watch for the Lower Florida Keys and a tropical storm warning for the Dry Tortugas late Tuesday night. By then, Idalia had passed well west of the island chain before strengthening to a category 3 hurricane.

According to Monroe County Emergency Management Director Shannon Weiner, there are no significant impacts from Idalia brushing the Keys as a tropical storm. Local infrastructure is operating normally, including the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, electricity, communications and water transmission. There are no reports of any notable damage.

Both Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport are operating normally, said Monroe County Airports Director Richard Strickland. Passengers, however, should continue checking with airlines about the status of arrivals and departures.

After closing on Tuesday, the Port of Key West reopened to commercial traffic Wednesday morning.

The National Park Service is evaluating reopening timeframes for Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote enclave of tiny islands that lies 68 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Park Service is doing the same for Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West.


Tropical Storm Idalia descended on the Carolinas on its way out to the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, leaving a trail of flooding and destruction throughout the Southeast that stretched back to its landfall as a hurricane in Florida.

Rescue and repair efforts continued in the areas that the storm passed through on Wednesday, and there was no immediate word on the toll from the ferocious winds and inundating waters, but authorities counted at least one death.

The storm left as many as a half-million customers without power in Florida and other states at one point as it ripped down power poles and lines. Still, it was far less destructive than feared, providing only glancing blows to Tampa Bay and other more populated areas as it came ashore with 125 mph (201 kph) winds in rural Florida.

The weakening storm still packed winds of up to 60 mph (96 kph) as it blasted through Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday evening. It’s expected to reach the North Carolina coast today, Aug. 31, and roll off into the ocean through the weekend.

In South Carolina, the storm coupled with king tides to send seawater flowing over sand dunes and spilling onto beachfront streets. In Charleston, a surge from Idalia topped the seawall that protects the downtown, sending ankle-deep ocean water into the streets and neighborhoods where horse-drawn carriages pass million-dollar homes and the famous open-air market.

Preliminary data showed the Wednesday evening high tide reached just over 9.2 feet (2.8 meters), more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) above normal and the fifth-highest reading in Charleston Harbor since records were first kept in 1899.

Bands from Idalia also brought short-lived tornadoes. One flipped a car in suburban Goose Creek, South Carolina, causing minor injuries, authorities said. No major damage was reported.

After travelling across the Gulf of Mexico, Idalia came ashore Wednesday morning near Keaton Beach, pummeling Florida’s remote and lightly populated Big Bend region with powerful winds.

The area, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula, saw streets turned into rivers that submerged cars and homes, while the howling winds tore off roofs, snapped tall trees, sent sheet metal flying and shredded homes.

No hurricane-related deaths were officially confirmed in Florida, but the state’s highway patrol reported two people killed in separate weather-related crashes just hours before Idalia made landfall.

Even so, Idalia appeared to be far less destructive than first feared. It avoided large urban regions, striking only glancing blows to Tampa Bay and other more populated areas while focusing its fury on the rural Big Bend section.

Officials in Bermuda warned that Idalia could hit the island early next week as a tropical storm. Bermuda on Wednesday was being lashed by the outer bands of Hurricane Franklin, a Category 2 storm that was on track to pass near the island in the north Atlantic Ocean.

President Joe Biden called the governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina on Wednesday and told them their states had his administration’s full support, the White House said.

With file from The Associated Press

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