The National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Wednesday morning reported a “catastrophic storm surge occurring along the coast of the Florida Big Bend and damaging winds spreading inland over northern Florida” following landfall by Hurricane Idalia.
“NOAA radar data indicate that the maximum sustained winds are now near 110 mph (175 km/h) with higher gusts,” the NHC posted in an alert at 9am ET.
Idalia made landfall as an “extremely dangerous” category 3 storm in the Florida Big Bend at a little before 8am ET, according to the NHC. Sustained winds at the time were estimated to be 125 miles per hour. Within little more than an hour, they’d died down to a very high category 2 storm.
The Big Bend is where Florida’s peninsula merges into its panhandle, just southeast of Tallahassee and well north of the Tampa metro area.
The National Weather Service is advising those in the path of Idalia as it spreads inland over northern Florida to shelter in place and stay indoors, keep away from windows, monitor all warnings and heed advice from local officials.
FEMA Director Deanne Criswell made that same plea—heed local officials’ guidance and warnings—on Tuesday in a White House briefing ahead of the storm.
She noted that President Biden had already issued an emergency declaration, allowing FEMA to put necessary federal personnel and equipment in place in anticipation of landfall.
However, she also stated that she had implemented “immediate needs funding” as FEMA’s coffers are being depleted by recent massive disasters, including the Maui wildfires, and the federal agency’s disaster relief fund currently has a balance of just $3.4 billion.
“Congress must work with us on the supplemental request that the Administration has made on the behalf of FEMA,” Criswell insisted.