Hurricane Idalia Devastates Florida Gulf Coast

By Emily Pesquera

Hurricane Idalia has completely devastated some spots of the Florida Gulf Coast. Strengthening into a Category 4 over the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday, Aug. 30th in the early morning but weakened to a Category 3 before making landfall at Keaton Beach.

Hurricane Idalia was coming into the state as a rapidly intensifying storm due to the warm waters in the Gulf. 

Before landfall, the path and cone of uncertainty continued to shift, with no clear idea of landfall until the storm moved on shore. From Longboat Key to the Florida panhandle, many coastal towns saw damage, for Hillsborough and Pinellas County north anyone in a Zone A evacuation zone had mandatory evacuations to get out before the storm rolled in. 

The University of Tampa enforced a mandatory evacuation Tuesday, Sept. 29th forcing students to be off campus and either go to a county shelter or out of Zone A. 

Alexandra Alessi, a sophomore accounting major who lives on campus, did not have much time to get off campus. Alexandra feels UT did not give enough time for students to get off campus. 

Megan Malone, a senior Communication, Media, and Culture student at UT took this storm as no joke when it came to evacuation since Tampa is known to flood. 

“With the fear of the hurricane taking a turn and hitting Tampa dead on, along with the dangerous water surges, my roommates and I decided to play it safe and drive south to Miami,” said Malone. 

The biggest fear for some residents was the storm surge, Tampa officials warned residents that an exceptionally high tide, called the King Tide is expected to occur as Idalia makes landfall.

County emergency officials opened up emergency shelters all throughout the West Coast for anyone in Zone A. For those who do not feel safe in their home; the shelters were opened in public schools, churches and community centers.

Cynthia Rogan, a senior Communication, Media, and Culture student who did not live in Zone A, did not end up evacuating. 

“Instead I hosted at my home, where I had other students who evacuated come over and spend the night,” said Rogan. “We made the most out of the situation, but hurricane season isn’t over yet.”

As residents returned to their homes post-Idalia, many came back to inches or even feet of water in their homes, with everything thrown all over. Complete devastation to say the least. 

Tarpon Springs, an area north of the Tampa Bay area known for Sponge Docks, was hit hard with flooding. Resident Tom Frick told News Channel 8 he took it upon himself to measure the water, reporting it  rose about six inches an hour. 

Saint Petersburg residents unfortunately learned the hard way that some insurance does not cover flood damage, relying on FEMA for assistance. 

While residents in Hillsborough County impacted by the storm cannot, due to the White House not approving the area as a disaster zone. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis requested a Major Disaster Declaration for 25 counties. The White House has only approved 14 as of September 7th. 

With the help of FEMA in some sports, Florida Residents have access to help from the Florida Disaster Fund and the U.S. Small Business Administration for Disaster Loans; residents are still struggling to clean up and rebuild their lives. 

Homes, businesses, and memories destroyed things the Government aid cannot fully replace. 

Hurricane season is just beginning with Idalia being the first storm Florida sees. Residents are becoming more prepared and learning not to mess around with natural disasters. 

In a press conference, DeSantis said, “I encourage all Floridians to be prepared and make a plan in the event a storm impacts.”

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