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Hurricane Idalia Rips Through Rural Florida Communities at 125 mph, Causing Extreme Flooding

On Wednesday morning, Florida’s Nature Coast sustained nine feet of storm surge as rural communities faced the impact of the strongest hurricane in 100 years.

NATURE COAST, FLORIDA — Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning along Florida’s Big Bend – the area where the Florida Panhandle transitions to the Florida Peninsula – with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.

The fast-moving storm, which strengthened to a category four around 5:00 a.m., made landfall between Cedar Key and Keaton Beach bringing an enormous storm surge of over nine feet in some areas. Extreme flooding at Steinhatchee Marina at Deadman’s Bay will increase throughout the afternoon as the tide continues to move in.

“This is just horrific to see,” WTXL anchor Channing Frampton said. “I’m very concerned about how far inland this might reach with the river going back in.”


The region is home to small villages secluded behind pine trees and ten to 20 miles from the nearest main road. This old Florida coastline, where generations of families have made their living on the water, is now swamped by over ten feet of storm surge.

The Dixie County Sheriff’s Office announced late Tuesday that around 20 people decided they would stay in Suwannee, and 15 said they would stay in nearby Horseshoe Beach to ride out the storm.

Longtime residents in the region still share stories about surviving the “Storm of the Century” – a no-name tropical cyclone that passed through in 1993, spawning tornadoes and flooding the coast with nine to 11 feet of storm surge. National weather service officials said Idalia is the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Big Bend region in 127 years.


In Cedar Key on early Tuesday, workers pulled up planks from wooden walkways on concrete pilings lining Dock Street, a narrow road bordered by a lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. Removing planks allows rising tides to rush through instead of destroying the entire walkway.

Down in Steinhatchee, Pastor Robert Carter boarded up the windows of the Lighthouse of Prayer church and stopped to say a prayer, telling media outlets to direct people looking for help to his church once the storm passes. He pointed to a red and white sign posted on the front of the building with the phrase “Everyone’s Welcome” and the phone number for the church: 352-464-4300.

“Tell folks that after the storm’s over, if there’s any way this church can be of service, call that number,” Carter told reporters.

Emergency resources can be found on Florida's Division of Emergency Management website or by calling 850-815-4000.