Although Florida is accustomed to hurricanes and powerful storms, the arrival of Hurricane Idalia sparked new concerns. This is because Florida's Big Bend region hadn't experienced a storm of such intensity in decades.
Hurricane Idalia made landfall, dumping up to a foot of rain with winds whipping at 130 miles per hour. But it wasn't the wind or the rain that scared millions of Floridians; it was the surge.
Feet of water surging into the low-lying town of Cedar Key, basically an island surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico.
"It was insane, watching the water come in like someone was filling the bathtub," said Annette Howard.
The Florida National Guard rescued Howard, her two dogs and three cats from several feet of surge in Old Homosassa.
Just up the road in Crystal River, the National Guard also saved Cynthia and Brian Kadau.
"It was bad; the water was bad," Brian Kadau said when asked how the conditions were at home.
The couple just moved to Florida from Tennessee; now they're homeless as the surge filled their neighborhood.
"There's some roads you can't even see anymore. Neighborhoods are underwater. Our road was about 5 to 6 feet deep," said Cynthia Kadau.
Hurricane Idalia’s winds snapped trees as the storm moved inland toward the small town of Perry. Across Florida, the death toll was low for such a powerful storm because of where the storm hit: the sparsely populated Big Bend.
"Idalia is the strongest storm to hit this part of Florida, to make landfall in this part of Florida, in over 100 years," said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
Which is why no one knew what to expect from the surge. The surge was largely due to a combination of elevated tides and inland rain.
"Water just started rushing in like somebody opened a dam," said Howard.
While the damage is still bad, had Idalia struck a major city, the resulting devastation would have been much worse.
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