Idalia caused flooding in communities along Fla.’s west coast before making landfill in rural Taylor County, but some say the insurance industry “dodged a bullet.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Hurricane Idalia raked the west coast of Florida last week, flooding communities before making landfall Wednesday as a Category 3 in the Keaton Beach area of rural Taylor County, causing widespread damage.
The storm moved through other sparsely populated areas of North Florida before passing into Georgia and South Carolina.
Flooding from surge and water flowing into low-lying areas was reported along the barrier islands in Collier and Lee counties. Water flowed into Sarasota, Bradenton and communities around Tampa Bay before landfall in the Big Bend region.
Saying the insurance industry “dodged a bullet,” a reinsurance firm estimated Idalia caused $3 billion to $5 billion in insured losses.
The firm, BMS, said that “in reality, the insurance industry dodged a bullet as Idalia tracked over relatively rural areas with low population density.”
BMS said it showed potential far-reaching effects of future storms.
“The tidal flooding all the way down to Bradenton, reveals that the impacts from named storms can be far-reaching beyond the destructive center of the storm and the cone of uncertainty,” a BMS analysis said. “This should be a warning call for what will happen when a major hurricane strikes the Tampa Bay area.”
A Florida official confirmed there was one hurricane-related death in the Gainesville area but didn’t release any details.
The state’s highway patrol reported earlier that two people were killed in separate weather-related crashes just hours before Idalia made landfall.
President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration to help state and local recovery efforts. The disaster declaration will make federal money available for people affected by the storm in Citrus, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee and Taylor counties.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will seek federal help for the fishing industry in the Big Bend region.
DeSantis earlier requested a major disaster declaration for 25 counties, seeking “expedited federal assistance” to help pay for debris removal and provide temporary housing.
The governor’s plan to seek help from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the fishing industry followed White House approval of a separate request for a major disaster declaration.
The declaration, in part, set the stage for federal reimbursement of costs for debris removal. It also will provide assistance for people in seven rural counties that took the brunt of Idalia, which made landfall Wednesday morning in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County before sweeping north into Georgia.
“This is an important part of the economy here,” DeSantis said of the fishing industry while at the Steinhatchee Marina at Deadman Bay. “This has obviously been interrupted, and it is going to be a blow to a lot of folks who are involved in that industry.”
DeSantis made the comment Thursday after touring Cedar Key, Horseshoe Beach and Steinhatchee with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell.
“I’ve seen a lot of really heartbreaking damage,” DeSantis said. “I think when people lose a church, when they lose their home, when they lose a business … you could see this was really – the day after the impact – a lot of these folks in, like, Horseshoe Beach, they came this morning to see. And so, it was all very raw. When you have your whole life’s work into, say, like a business and it ends up under five feet of water, that’s a lot of work that you’ve got to do going forward.”
DeSantis made a similar aid request last year for the recreational saltwater fishing industry and commercial fisheries in Southwest Florida following Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm.
Criswell said during the Steinhatchee visit that in addition to her observations of “a significant amount of flooding damage,” FEMA is using aerial and satellite imagery to make comparisons of the region before and after the storm to get “a true impact of the overall damage to the area.”
“And so, we’ll use all of that information to help determine what additional programs potentially need to be added,” Criswell said.
The state’s first confirmed death from Idalia involved a traffic fatality in Alachua County. DeSantis said people in the Big Bend region “made good decisions, protected themselves,” and the forecast for the storm turned out to be accurate.
“It had been eying the Big Bend many days ago,” DeSantis said. “And that’s what ended up happening. So, I think people, particularly in this area who were in the way of a potential significant storm surge, they did take the proper precautions.”
By comparison, medical examiners confirmed 149 deaths from Ian, nearly half in Lee County.
DeSantis and others have repeatedly pointed to the uncertainty of storm forecasts for Ian, which at one point was projected to head to Tampa, with parts of Southwest Florida outside the tracking cone. Ian made landfall Sept. 28 in Lee and Charlotte counties. ¦
Copyright © 2023 Florida Weekly and The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.
Go to Source