GAINESVILLE, Ga. — America is now in the midst of hurricane season. Florida was the latest victim of a hurricane, when Hurricane Idalia made landfall near Keaton Beach, Fla., at 7:45 a.m. on Aug. 30, as a category 3 storm in what is known as the “Big Bend” area of the state on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
The National Hurricane Center defines a hurricane or a typhoon as “a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 64 kt (74 mph or 119 km/hr.) or more.
It was reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 46 of the state’s 67 counties.
“The property, we can rebuild someone’s home. You can’t unring the bell, though, if somebody stays in harm’s way and does battle with Mother Nature. This is not something that you want to do battle with,” DeSantis said.
Before the storm made landfall, parts of Florida had already had 11 tornado warnings. The day the hurricane was due to strike, DeSantis held a press conference at 6:30 a.m. EST. Around 6:36 a.m., during the governor’s press conference, the lights in the building were going on and off. This was an indication that the power was starting to shut off due to the high winds.
The National Weather Service announced that the winds were going 125 mph and onshore and gusts were going 85 mph. As the storm made landfall the storm surge was at three feet. It was predicted that the storm surge would increase to 16 feet. Two people were dead as a result of a vehicle crash when driving conditions were rigid.
A press statement released on Aug. 28 DeSantis’s office, discussed preparations for the storm. It noted:
· The Florida National Guard was mobilizing 1,100 personnel to respond and provide immediate support to impacted areas in addition to 2,400 high wheel vehicles and 12 aircraft.
· The Florida Department of Law Enforcement had activated the State Emergency Operations Center Team to support ongoing operations. FDLE has prepared: 25 officers ready to deploy; one mobile command vehicle; one operations command center; and two mobile staging units.
· The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had readied high-water vehicles and all other storm response resources statewide so they may be rapidly deployed to assist Floridians in need in the event of damage or flooding.
· FWC Officers will respond with a variety of specialized equipment as necessary, including: shallow draft boats; larger platform vessels; ATVs; airboats and four-wheel drive vehicles.
· These assets are in addition to local FWC officers deployed to potentially affected areas.
FWC Special Operations Group teams will serve as reconnaissance units for the State EOC and report back on damage after the storm has made landfall. FWC Aviation Section has been placed on standby and has readied all
appropriate aircraft for potential deployment for EOC aerial assistance, reconnaissance, and post-storm damage assessments when needed.
The Florida Highway Patrol had 300 troopers ready to deploy and prepared to implement 12-hour shifts.
At around 11:00 a.m. on Aug. 30 the storm was reduced to a category 1 hurricane with winds at 90 mph. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced on the day before the storm that Georgia was under a state of emergency until Sept. 8, 2023.
“We are taking every precaution ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall … and I am taking this additional executive action to ensure state assets are ready to respond,” Kemp said. “Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families. We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring.”
He also announced that the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency was to activate Storm Operations Center to keep a close eye on Hurricane Idalia.
“Thanks to our response partners on both the state and local levels, Georgia will be prepared for whatever Idalia will bring,” Kemp added. “Rest assured, though the system will likely weaken before crossing our border, we’re not taking anything for granted. As the week progresses, I will work closely with GEMA/HS, the weather service, public safety organizations, and others to ensure we leave nothing to chance.”
By the time Idalia had reached North Carolina and South Carolina it had been reduced to a tropical storm.
Clemson News said the government of South Carolina momentarily waived conditions for farms and domestic pets that are being evacuated from hurricane bound Florida. Florida veterinarians approached South Carolina officials about the evacuation precautions taken to move animals. Michael Neault, South Carolina state veterinarian, and director of Clemson Livestock-Poultry Health said, “in order to accommodate evacuations in advance of Idalia, we are temporarily suspending some of the requirements governing the importation of agricultural and companion animals into South Carolina as we have done with past storms.”
State departments of agriculture are still assessing the storm’s damage, but some have issued preliminary numbers.
In regard to poultry, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is reporting power outages at several locations and multiple poultry operations in Coffee County were on generators. Two poultry operations reported roof damage and flooding was noted in two poultry houses. There was also other agricultural damage such as downed pecan trees throughout the impact area; some pecan crop loss in the area; some corn field damage; as well as several barns, sheds and other buildings that were torn down.
“Since (Aug. 28), we’ve been onsite at the State Operations Center monitoring Hurricane Idalia, and our team and I are on the ground in South Georgia assessing the damage and speaking directly with impacted farmers, producers, and business owners,” said Tyler Harper, Georgia agriculture commissioner. “We are working overtime, in coordination with our State and Federal partners, to ensure farmers, producers and other GDA licensed operations impacted by Idalia have the resources they need to recover and bounce back stronger than before.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture is still assessing damage and urges the state’s agricultural producers to document their damage and/or crop loss with photos before beginning the clean-up process.
During hurricane season, USDA has issued preparation tips in the event of a storm.
· During a power outage, the refrigerator will keep food at a safe temperature (below 40 degrees F) for up to 4 hours. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to prevent cold air from escaping.
· Keep an appliance thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer in the event you do need to check the refrigerator or freezer temperatures.
· Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
· Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
· Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
· Group foods together in the freezer — this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
· Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
For livestock producers USDA urged to not only prepare for themselves but prepare for their livestock.
· Plan for evacuation – know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide a strong shelter, and adequate food and water that will last them until you can return.
· If you are planning to move livestock out of state, make sure to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You also may contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for information and assistance about protecting and moving livestock.
· Listen to emergency officials and evacuate if asked to do so.
The Florida Department of Agriculture also issued the following for those impacted by Idalia:
For producers that experience losses and/or damages due to Hurricane Idalia, please share the following information to report to the Farm Service Agency: For Hurricane Idalia assistance, please call the FSA Producer Hotline: 877-508-8364 M-F 8 a.m.-8 p.m. or send an email to the FSA disaster group inbox at FPAC.FSA.FLFSA.Disaster@USDA.GOV Indicate the county of loss in the subject line — emails sent to the disaster group inbox will receive an auto-reply acknowledging receipt.