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Tropical Storm Idalia is still pounding the southeast Atlantic coast, bringing flash flood warnings in North Carolina, while communities across Florida’s west coast are surveying extensive damage from the most powerful hurricane to hit its Big Bend region in more than a century.
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After making landfall in Florida on Wednesday, the storm moved through southern Georgia and South Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane. Dozens of people have been rescued, hundreds of thousands are still without power, some are under boil water orders and some coastal communities far from the landslide zone face the risk of flooding Thursday morning.
“The combination of storm surge and waves can inundate dry areas near the coast by moving them inland from the coast” National Hurricane Center He said water could rise up to 4 feet in North Carolina.
Some parts of southeastern North Carolina, including the Wilmington area, received 2 to 5 inches of rain, where a flash flood warning was in effect early Thursday, the National Weather Service said. Parts of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Bender counties were under the alert.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible.
In Florida’s Big Bend region — between the Panhandle and the peninsula — near Keaton Beach, the storm caused earlier destruction, tearing off roofs and flooding homes as seawater pounded a wide swath of the state’s west coast.
Many places bore the brunt of the crisis because they “didn’t necessarily have the resources” to handle such a powerful hurricane, said U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who represents a southern Florida district and heads the state’s emergency management division.
“Some communities will never look the same, and others will be rebuilt to look a little bit different,” he told CNN Wednesday night.
“This is a life-changing event for some of these counties.”
In Pictures: Cyclone Italia
Officials urged thousands to evacuate before storm surge surged through the Great Bend from Tampa Bay. The storm downed power lines and caused flooding in parts of Georgia and South Carolina, including Charleston.
In Charleston, the storm downed trees and led officials to close flooded roads, police said. The National Weather Service reported that water also breached dunes in Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
Track Italia’s route
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that there was “one unconfirmed casualty” in Florida after the storm.
Two people were killed in separate crashes Wednesday morning amid severe storm conditions, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins previously noted that both deaths were weather-related. It is not clear whether DeSantis was referring to one of these accidents. CNN has asked for clarification.
Another death was reported in Lowndes County, Georgia, when a tree fell while cutting a tree on the highway, Sheriff Ashley Falk told CNN.
Here are other developments on the storm early Thursday:
• Flood Rescue: First responders rescued about 150 residents from flooded neighborhoods in hard-hit Pasco County, Florida, north of Tampa, the county’s fire-rescue chief said. Some areas experienced 3 to 5 feet of water.
• Thousands of houses damaged: In Pasco County, Florida alone, between 4,000 and 6,000 homes are under water, County Administrator Mike Carballa said.
• Historical Water Levels: Water in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor rose more than 9 feet, making it the fifth-highest level ever recorded, the National Weather Service said. Florida’s Cedar Key, East Bay Tampa, Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg also experienced unprecedented storm surges.
• Thousands in darkness: As of early Thursday, about 150,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida. Another 110,000 strikes were in Georgia, about 50,000 were reported in the Carolinas, PowerOutage.us reported.
• Residents are advised to stay indoors: Florida officials are urging residents to avoid being outdoors as cleanup and search efforts continue. Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett cited the dangers of downed trees and power lines.
• Advice on boiling water: DeSoto, Dixie, Leon, Levy, Marion and Taylor counties in Florida are under boil water advisories issued by the state Department of Health.
• Some school districts are slated to reopen: DeSantis said at least 30 of the 52 school districts closed before the storm will reopen Thursday. Eight districts are slated to reopen on Friday.
• Over the Carolinas: As of 5 a.m. ET, Italia’s center was 45 miles south-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was forecast to move just off the coast of North Carolina late Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. said. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from the South Santee River north to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A storm surge watch is in effect for Beaufort Inlet to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina and the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.
Italia is expected to maintain its tropical storm status Thursday morning as it moves off the East Coast. Heavy rainfall in South and North Carolina “will continue with significant impacts to areas of flash, urban and moderate river flooding,” the hurricane center explained.
Meanwhile, Central Florida could see an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain Thursday.
On Wednesday, Hurricane Italia set records for highest water levels in many parts of Florida.
In Cedar Key, an island town about 80 miles north of Tampa, the storm surge reached 8.9 feet, breaking the record of 5.99 feet set by Hurricane Hermine in 2016.
Storm surge in Tampa’s East Bay was 5.7 feet Wednesday, roughly 2 feet higher than the 2020 record from Tropical Storm Etta.
In Clearwater Beach, storm surge from Italia reached 5.2 feet, up from 4.02 feet from the 1993 “Storm of the Century,” which also dumped snow on much of the East Coast.