WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – As predicted, Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning in Florida with high winds and surging water. Although two deaths were reported due to crashes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the hurricane hasn’t officially been designated as the cause of those fatalities.
Hurricane Idalia slammed Florida as a Category 3 storm, causing major damage to counties in rural areas.
“These counties are not going to be able to afford that on their own and of course even with a 75% cost share with the federal government,” Gov. DeSantis said.
Storm surge sent several feet of water into streets in towns in the Big Bend area.
“Idalia is the strongest storm to hit this part of Florida,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.
The storm eventually slowed to a category one as it continued on its path to Georgia, “but it is still very dangerous with winds up to 75 miles an hour,” President Joe Biden said.
President Biden says he spoke to the governors of all the states expected to be impacted by the hurricane, including DeSantis. The president said he “approved an early request for emergency declaration to enable him to have the full support ahead of time to protect the people’s lives in the state of Florida.”
Criswell says the federal government will provide all the help that’s needed, but FEMA funds are already stretched thin by previous natural disasters in 2023, including the Maui wildfires.
“We are monitoring it very closely, right? Every day we are looking at what the costs of these storms are,” Criswell said.
The Biden administration warns storms like this are getting worse and happening more frequently because of the warming climate.
“They are intensifying more rapidly due to the elevated heat of the water temperature in the gulf, or in the Pacific or whether it’s in the Atlantic,” Criswell explained.
The president also says more than a thousand federal personnel were deployed to Florida and other Southeast states before the hurricane hit and will remain there to help with recovery efforts.