August 30, 2023 PM Update – Hurricane Idalia grew into a Category 4 storm early Wednesday morning but thankfully veered to the northeast as previously forecast and spared the greater Tallahassee and nearby coastal areas, making landfall on Keaton Beach, in the mostly rural and sparsely populated Taylor County. It lost some of its intensity, making landfall at 7:45am as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. But it was strong enough – and big enough (with hurricane-force winds extending 25 miles and tropical-force winds another 160 miles) – to cause widespread damage to Florida. Two people died in separate weather-related car accidents a few hours before landfall. NOAA called its forecasted 12-16 feet of storm surge “catastrophic.” Idalia remained a Cat 2 hurricane as it swept through North Florida before entering Georgia late morning and tonight is in the Carolinas as a tropical storm. And so now the cleanup begins.
“There’s a lot of debris, a lot of trees knocked down, you see a lot of interruption of power lines,” said the Governor this afternoon following a tour of Taylor County. “There’s going to be a lot required to be able to clean this up and to get everything back up and running again.”
At ground zero in Keaton Beach, several homes that sit along the marsh shore were torn apart, with one “resembling a doll house,” with walls partially ripped open, said one observer. Several roofs on other homes were torn off, while other, more recent and elevated construction, looked relatively unscathed. You can get a feel for what that catastrophic storm surge looked like by watching this time elapse video of the Gulf of Mexico surge hitting the town of Steinhatchee, just 20 miles south of Keaton Beach. By 9am, Idalia, now a Cat 2 hurricane, had moved inland over the town of Perry where roofs were blown off buildings and two businesses caught fire. “So far the biggest impact area we have seems to be in Perry,” said state Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. Debris in rural areas is taking longer to clear simply because there are more trees, he added.
Florida’s entire Gulf Coast suffered consequences as Idalia passed by over the past 36 hours. South of Keaton Beach, on Cedar Key in Levy County, 6 feet of surge-related flooding had been observed at 8am. By afternoon, that had reached 9 feet with much of the key inundated with Gulf water. “We have propane tanks blowing up all over the island,” posted the local fire department.
Farther south, in the coastal community of Crystal River in Citrus County, authorities were using airboats and transport trucks to rescue about 60 people who became trapped by rising water. That scene was repeated up and down Florida’s Gulf Coast as Idalia passed, pushing storm surge of 4-6 feet into bays and tributaries.
In flood-vulnerable Tampa, the storm surge pushed up Hillsborough Bay and flooded the adjacent Bayshore Boulevard and nearby neighborhoods. As with last year’s Hurricane Ian, Tampa and Hillsborough County, as well as coastal Pinellas County, dodged a bullet with Idalia’s northern track that kept its dangerous center 100 miles off the coast.
In Jacksonville, the city’s balustrades and bulkheads suffered damage from a storm-churned St. Johns River. In Tallahassee, the storm hit home for Governor DeSantis – literally. A 100 year-old oak tree toppled perilously close to the Governor’s Mansion. Elsewhere in Tallahassee, just some minor flooding and a few trees that fell onto homes and roadways, together with some power outages. You will read many more such stories in the coming days from communities along the Gulf Coast and across Central and Northeast Florida that suffered Idalia’s impacts.
Response: More than 500,000 residents and businesses lost power during the hurricane. Tonight, about 250,000 are still without power. Nineteen shelters remain open tonight across 14 counties. The 5,500 National Guard members mobilized for the storm remain on the job tonight, along with emergency personnel from other state and federal agencies. “Urban search and rescue personnel have completed 75% of the hasty search and primary search for the entire impacted area. So all the way from Southwest Florida through to the state line,” said Guthrie at tonight’s 6pm briefing. “We have no outstanding numbers of missing people,” he added, alluding to reports before the storm, especially in Taylor County, that there were some coastal residents who weren’t heeding the order to evacuate. Tomorrow (Thursday) the teams will focus on “search, secure, and stabilize,” to make sure the impacted areas aren’t getting worse and conducting secondary searches to make sure no one has been missed.
Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue said his crews have finished inspecting about 1,000 bridges for any storm damage and all are clear for use, including Cedar Key Bridge. The crews have also cleared 6,600 miles of debris from roadways and installed nearly 1,000 generators to get traffic signals back in operation.
Federal Help: Emergency Management Chief Guthrie said would submit to the Governor tonight an expedited major disaster declaration for review and then with approval, submit that to FEMA. The Governor tonight said he anticipates that declaration will be approved based on his discussions with President Biden and Guthrie’s discussions with FEMA. “That’s going to be important, particularly for some of these reimbursements. These are counties that are fiscally constrained counties and so they’re going to need the support for reimbursement when you’re talking about some of the debris removal that’s going to need to be done with all the trees,” the Governor said.
Guthrie and the local county emergency management directors will then begin work on individual damage assessments. “That’s where we start looking at homes that have been affected with minor or major damage and come up with a total to then see if we qualify potentially for an individual assistance major disaster declaration from the federal government,” Guthrie explained at the briefing.
Insured Losses: UBS bank estimated average insured losses from Idalia of $9.36 billion, based on August 28 data and analysis. Stay tuned for more updated figures and new industry estimates later this week. Any hurricane this year, no matter the size, is unwelcome as the Florida property insurance market seeks balance after three consecutive years of more than $1 billion in underwriting losses.
I am continuing to work with news media across Florida to share useful information that insurance consumers need to know. This includes my Hurricane Idalia Insurance Claims Tips guide. It’s part of my work as a policy advisor to the Disaster Recovery Coalition of America.
For those reading this Hurricane Update who want to help those impacted by the storm, the Florida Disaster Fund was reactivated yesterday and has raised more than $1 million. The fund is a component of the Volunteer Florida Foundation, Florida’s official 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports volunteerism, community service, and disaster recovery. To donate, click here.
This is our 4th and final Hurricane Update on Idalia. We produce these updates as a service to catastrophe professionals. We have received tremendous positive feedback from so many of you, relying on our “boots on the ground” updates spanning the emergency management response, critical insurance claims information, and multi-county disaster recovery progress. It has been a privilege to connect with our followers and supporters. We’ll continue reporting on the disaster recovery effort in our bi-monthly LMA Newsletter resuming next week, and hope you’ll subscribe if you haven’t already. In the meantime, we are a phone call or an email away…always! Please stay safe in the field!
Lisa & the LMA team
(Here’s the latest news from the Governor’s Office on specific state response actions and a list of mobilized resources:)
State Response Efforts
- FDEM is leading the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) for the Hurricane Idalia response.
- FDEM has mobilized requested resources to support residents and first responders including more than 100 pallets of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), nearly 500 pallets of bottled water, and more than 20 pallets of tarps.
- Just two months after the first graduation of Florida State Guard soldiers in 75 years, they’ve been called up to support Florida’s Hurricane Response and are on the ground in Taylor County. We thank them for their service during this community’s time of need.
- The Florida National Guard (FLNG) has been fully activated, with a mobilization of 5,300 guardsmen in position across the state for response efforts. Mobilized units are postured to support humanitarian assistance, route clearance, traffic control, aviation, and security missions throughout impacted areas.
- The Florida National Guard’s Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (REDHORSE) is a highly trained unit in heavy construction that is uniquely mobile and also able to quickly move debris and clear vital routes for our responders. They have worked tirelessly since early morning to clear routes for our own teams to conduct door to door wellness checks for our fellow Floridians.
- The FLNG 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team has deployed forward into western and northwestern Florida.
- The Florida National Guard currently has:
- 2400 vehicles to include high mobility and high-water vehicles,
- 14 FLARNG helicopters strategically placed around the state and that number could double with assistance from neighboring states,
- 23 small watercrafts ready to support search and rescue, and reconnaissance missions.
- Two National Guard Truck Companies from neighboring states are enroute to Florida to provide our Guardsmen with additional mobility capabilities.
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) mutual aid team is coordinating Florida’s law enforcement response with 68 active missions including deployment of search and rescue teams.
- A total of 80 FDLE agents from Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Pensacola are deployed into the impacted area and an FDLE drone operator is working with Urban Search and Rescue Teams.
- FDLE has deployed the following equipment:
- One command center
- One mobile command center
- Six mobile staging units
- Three large trailers
- Four box trailers
- Two cargo trucks
- One forklift
- 24 generators
- 30 Chainsaws.
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) two rapid response teams The teams have of a total of 47 officers and support personnel and the following equipment:
- 47 four-wheel drive vehicles
- 15 vessels including airboats and shallow draft vessels
- 9 UTV/ATVs
- 1 drone unit
- 4 swamp buggies
- 2 supply trailers
- 1 command trailer
- multiple generators
- mobile communications equipment
- fuel resupply containers
- FWC response teams have integrated with three teams from the Department of Financial Services Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations with heavy debris removal capability.
- The Florida Highway Patrol has activated 300 troopers and implemented 12-hour Alpha, Bravo to provide resources to impacted areas. This activation has resulted in regular days off being cancelled and 24-Hour enhanced coverage.
- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is actively working to provide any needed assistance to drinking water, wastewater and hazardous waste facilities. Outreach to these facilities to determine operation status is ongoing.
- DEP’s request for a fuel waiver was granted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily adjust certain regulatory requirements statewide so the state can ensure a sustained, useable fuel supply.
- DEP is coordinating with Florida’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN), the Florida Rural Water Association and other response agencies to dispatch fuel and pump trucks to assist drinking and wastewater facilities.
- 14 Florida State Parks strike teams have been assembled to assist with assessment and recovery efforts at impacted parks.
- DEP’s Emergency Final Order removes barriers for expediting necessary repair, replacement and restoration of structures, equipment, surface water management systems, works and other systems that may be damaged by the storm.
Health and Human Services
- The Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) has released more than $104 million in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits early in preparation/response to Hurricane Idalia for over 327,000 households that would normally receive their September SNAP benefit between the 1st – 14th of the month. This applies to SNAP households located in one of the 49 designated counties in Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order. Eligible recipients will have the benefits automatically added to their EBT card. There is no need for recipients to apply.
- The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is staging mobile field hospitals and emergency rooms for deployment to facilities in the Big Bend.
- DOH and AHCA are supporting patient transport and efficient reopening of health care facilities in affected areas.
- Over 400 ambulances and paratransit buses are deployed or staged to support emergency medical services and patient transport.
- DOH is supporting 45 special needs shelters in the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Charlotte, Clay, Columbia, Citrus, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Glades/Henry, Hardee, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, St. John’s, Sumter, Suwannee, Union, and Volusia.
- DOH Children’s Medical Services Managed Care Plan (CMS) conducted outreach to providers and high-risk clients within 46 counties. CMS has ensured clients have access to early prescription refills.
- DOH has provided additional supplies of special infant formula to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clients in need. WIC clients have been contacted regarding clinic closures.
- The DOH and Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) sent information regarding early prescription refills permitted under Executive Order 23-171. This information was sent to the public, health insurers, managed care organizations, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacy chains, and health care providers.
- The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is pulling reports utilizing newly developed GIS software that includes information from residential providers and hospitals in impacted areas.
- AHCA opened an event in the Health Facility Reporting System, All Residential/Inpatient Health Care Providers must submit updates on census, bed availability, evacuation and receiving status, power outages and generator status by 10AM daily & when a situation changes. This has been put in place for all 67 counties.
- On-site post storm visits will be made by the Agency to conduct health and life safety surveys.
- For health facilities with storm damage, damage assessment guidelines, are available here.
- Teledoc is providing free virtual health care services, including general medical telehealth visits, non-emergency services, and prescription refills, to Florida residents, first responders and others directly impacted by Hurricane Idalia. Call Teladoc directly at 855-225-5032.
- AHCA sent a Medicaid Provider Alert outlining Key Medicaid Information for Fee-For-Service and Managed Care Providers during Hurricane Idalia, this can be found here.
- The Agency waived all prior authorization requirements for providers to perform critical services beyond policy limits until further notice.
- AHCA has activated the Emergency Patient Look-Up System (E-PLUS). Special needs shelters are able to utilize the system to retrieve patient medical records. E-PLUS is also available to assist medical providers and emergency response personnel with locating missing or displaced persons after the storm.
- Publix pharmacies have agreed to share data with the E-PLUS and are also being credentialed to use the system to assist with prescribing needs.
- 100% of operating long-term care facilities have a generator on-site. The Generator Status Map for long-term care facilities is available here.
- AHCA has contacted the Medicaid Managed Care Plans, to ensure they are allowing for early prescription refills. Fee-for-service recipients are also eligible for early refills.
- The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), APD and its partners have contacted APD clients, families, providers and critical stakeholders pre-landfall to ensure readiness and track any evacuations plans for post storm activities.
- APD Field Leadership and their teams are checking in with clients, providers, and staff in the affected areas to determine health and safety post landfall.
- The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) is receiving daily updates from all 11 Area Agencies on Aging throughout Florida. PSA 6 is currently closed to the public but is operating in a more limited capacity with staff working on the Elder Help Line and in their Long-Term Care Services Departments. There are currently no unmet needs being reported by any PSA 6 providers.
Infrastructure, Roads, State Closures and Outages
- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) continues to complete assessments of the fuel supplies as locations reported by CITGO to determine the severity of contaminated fuel within on-site tanks. Updates on inspections and testing can be found here.
- The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is maintaining high visibility on interstate systems, bridges, and rest areas. Motorists can report disabled vehicles or dangerous driving conditions to *FHP (*347).
- FHP is coordinating UAV flights to capture images of all the State Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) towers to ensure state law enforcement personnel have communications to provide Hurricane Idalia response and law enforcement resources.
- FLHSMV driver license and motor vehicle service center closures can be found here.
- FDACS has opened up the consumer hotline to receive complaints from consumers impacted by the Port of Tampa fuel contamination. If you believe you were sold contaminated gasoline, you can file a complaint by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA or visiting fdacs.gov.
- Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) For the latest and real-time road and bridge closures, please visit Florida 511, at FL511.com or download the app. Florida’s 511 Traveler Information System is available for drivers to stay informed about roadway conditions during emergencies. This service is monitored and updated 24/7 by FDOT and includes traffic conditions, road and bridge closures, and other specialized alerts.
- FDOT has nearly 700 team members deployed to the impacted areas, which includes nearly 100 Bridge Inspectors and 224 Cut and Toss crew members.
- Nearly 250 pieces of major equipment, including 140 dump trucks, 59 pumps, and 207 other heavy equipment (front-end loaders, skid-steers, etc.)
- Nearly 1,100 generators are ready to deploy as needed to quickly restore traffic signals.
- All 13 traffic management centers across the state, which are open 24/7, are monitoring road conditions and traffic levels along critical corridors including I-10, I-75, and I-4 to ensure safe travel for drivers.
- 185 Road Rangers are available across the state to assist motorists in need.
- Tolls have been suspended at facilities along the West Coast of Florida until Noon on Tuesday, September 5. The facilities include the I-4 Connector, Selmon Expressway (S.R. 618), Veterans Expressway (S.R. 589), Suncoast Parkway (S.R. 589), Turnpike Mainline (I-75 to I-4), Pinellas Bayway (S.R. 679), Sunshine Skyway Bridge (U.S. 19).
- FDOT issued an Emergency Order to temporarily allow expanded weight and size requirements for vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services, supplies, and agriculture commodities and citrus.
- For rolling updates on Florida’s airport, seaport, and transit partners, please visit local listings or www.fdot.gov/idalia.
- Remember to heed the advice of local officials following a severe weather event. FDOT reminds motorists to always proceed cautiously and drive safely.
- DEP has pre-authorized 707 Disaster Debris Management Sites for the counties included in the Governor’s Executive Order to temporarily stage storm-generated debris that may result from the storm.
- The Florida Department of Education is consistently updating their website with school district closures, as well as State University System and Florida College System Closures.
- 50 County School Districts have issued closures.
- 20 Florida State College Systems have issued closures.
- Nine State University Systems have issued closures.
- Ten State Testing Site has issued closures.
- Ten Division of Blind Services have issued closures.
- 20 Vocational Rehabilitation Offices have issued closures.
Resources for Employees and Businesses
- Today, FloridaCommerce and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) activated the Business Damage Assessment Survey in response to Hurricane Idalia. Survey responses will allow the state to expedite Hurricane Idalia recovery efforts by gathering data and assessing the needs of affected businesses. Businesses can complete the survey online by visiting www.FloridaDisaster.biz and selecting “Hurricane Idalia” from the dropdown menu.
- In partnership with FloridaCommerce, DOH has provided resources to private sector partners selling generators to Floridians regarding generator safety and carbon monoxide poisoning prevention. Information regarding proper generator safety has also been distributed on social media platforms.
- FloridaCommerce has activated the private sector hotline at 850-815-4925 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Inquiries may also be emailed to [email protected].
- FloridaCommerce has alerted the statewide Community Action Agency (CAA) Network and Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) to initiate disaster preparedness activities. LWDBs and CAAs have been advised to submit their anticipated cash needs or invoice packages for reimbursement, as appropriate, to ensure critical services to Floridians are not disrupted.
- FloridaCommerce is hosting daily private sector coordination calls beginning Monday, August 28, 2023. Briefings will be provided by SERT meteorology, fuels, communications, transportation, and energy, as well as private sector partners such as the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and VISIT FLORIDA.
- FloridaCommerce is in contact with local ESF 18 representatives in the anticipated impacted areas to support economic resiliency in their communities.
- FloridaCommerce has also been in contact with Amazon who will donate gift cards and supplies to nonprofits following the storm.
- U-HAUL is offering 30 days of free self-storage or container use at more than 50 of its locations across the state. For more information contact the nearest participating location: bit.ly/3Ehal49.
- OnStar: Crisis Mode has been turned on for all OnStar-equipped Chevrolet, Buick, GMC & Cadillac owners impacted by Idalia. Services are complimentary. Just push your OnStar button and say “Advisor.”
- Wells Fargo is ready to support Floridians by providing access to your accounts, banker support on their customer assistance line at 1-800-219-9739.
- Visa is waiving interchange fees for donations made to the Florida Relief Fund. They will match employee donations made in support of Florida disaster relief efforts and the Visa Small Business Team has activated their Back to Business tools to help Floridians affected by Hurricane Idalia.
- Comcast has opened 141,000 public Xfinity WiFi hotspots in areas it serves across Florida in Hurricane Idalia’s potential path for anyone to use, including non-Xfinity customers, for free.
- Uber announced FREE* round-trip rides to Florida shelter locations in Alachua, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Marion, Manatee, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Sumter, Union, and Volusia counties in preparation of Hurricane Idalia
- Open your app.
- Tap “Account” on the bottom right.
- Tap Wallet
- Scroll down to “+ Add Promo Code.”
- Enter code IDALIARELIEF
- *Up to $35 each way, to and from a state- approved evacuation shelter listed at floridadisaster.org/planprepare/shelters.
- VISIT FLORIDA has activated the Emergency Accommodations Module with Expedia to provide real-time availability of hotel rooms throughout the state.
- Updates on closures and business resources are consistently being updated at FloridaDisaster.Biz/CurrentDisasterUpdates.
- The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) linking the Boil Water Notice Guidelines and the Emergency Recovery Guidelines was sent to food and lodging establishments throughout the impacted areas of the state to help businesses prepare for post-storm recovery.
- DBPR is coordinating with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to secure accommodations for state workers and first responders deploying to impacted areas.
- The DBPR Division of Hotels and Restaurants is coordinating emergency response teams in the Big Bend, North Florida and Tampa Bay regions for a post-storm rapid response to assist lodging establishments and restaurants in reopening as necessary.
- DBPR encourages Florida’s licensed contractors who are looking to help property owners in need of post-storm construction-related services to register with the Florida Disaster Contractors Network at DCNOnline.org. Once homeowners are safely able to assess their home repair needs, DBPR encourages them to log onto DCNOnline.org and search by county for a list of Florida-licensed contractors providing these services in their community.
- OIR issued an Informational Memorandum to all authorized residential property insurers to provide guidance on hurricane preparedness and response. OIR directed insurers to review all aspects of their disaster preparedness and response plans to ensure they’re in compliance with Florida law. Informational Memorandum OIR-23-05M is available here.
- DBPR Emergency Order 2023-06 also:
- Extends the deadline for the filing of monthly reports and returns by certain alcoholic beverage and tobacco license holders to October 25, 2023.
- Suspends and tolls through October 25, 2023, all final orders reflecting agency action and all-time requirements and deadlines for filing responses outlined in agency orders through September 28, 2023.
- Suspends and tolls the annual $4 mobile home fee and $1 surcharge for mobile home park owners.
- Waives the $200 fee for the issuance of temporary licenses for out-of-state veterinarians through October 25, 2023.
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has FLHSMV has issued Emergency Order 082623, which:
- waives specific requirements for commercial motor vehicles providing emergency relief; and
- waives the replacement fees for driver’s license and identification credentials, vehicle registrations and titles, vessel registrations and titles and temporary parking permits for impacted individuals.
- Following the issuance of the Governor’s Executive Order, DEP has issued an Emergency Final Order waiving permitting requirements for the storage and processing of solid waste, including hurricane debris.
- DEP’s Emergency Final Order also removes barriers for expediting necessary repair, replacement and restoration of structures, equipment, surface water management systems, works and other systems that may be damaged by the storm.
- FDOT issued an Emergency Order to temporarily allow expanded weight and size requirements for vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services, supplies, and agriculture commodities and citrus.
Tropical Storm Idalia Update of August 30, 2023, PM Update