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Parts of the Southeast coastline are dealing with the aftermath of Idalia

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Across the Southeast, hundreds of thousands of people lack power, roads are littered with storm debris, and fears remain over the possibility of future flooding.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All this after Hurricane Idalia tore a path from Florida to South Carolina, tearing off roofs, snapping trees and turning cars into boats. And the full toll is still being calculated.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Bobby Allyn has been following Idalia from Lake City, Fla. Bobby, what can you tell us about the damage left in Idalia's path?

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Yeah, you know, it was pretty destructive, A. The storm came ashore along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida with 125-mile-per-hour winds. As it churned, the storm submerged small fishing communities underwater, littered roads with heaps of fallen trees, knocked out power for hundreds of thousands. You know, many of those people and businesses are still in the dark today. And, you know, while many evacuated, others rode it out, like Roxanne Welch. She watched the storm inside her brick home in Lafayette County, and she described it this way.

ROXANNE WELCH: Pretty crazy. Pretty shocking. We were watching from the front door and watching some things fall down, and then all of a sudden, heard a big crash on our roof.

ALLYN: And the big crash on the roof was a tree. Driving around this, you know, rural, woodsy area that the storms tore through, there were so many snapped and knocked over pine trees everywhere. And it made getting around this windy backroads of this community nearly impossible. But cleanup crews have been working hard to clear debris, and tens of thousands of utility workers have been making repairs to restore power to the region. But still, A, it's going to take some time.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, how deadly has Idalia been so far?

ALLYN: So far, not very, which is a huge difference from the last time a major hurricane pounded Florida, Hurricane Ian last year. More than 150 people died in that storm. This time, with Idalia, there have been three deaths linked to the hurricane, but what really spared so many was the path of the storm. It moved through what's known as Florida's Nature Coast, a region called the Big Bend, where Florida's panhandle turns into the peninsula. It's a sprawling agricultural part of the state full of wetlands and cattle farms. It's millions of acres of undeveloped land. So while the storm did buzzsaw its way through deep forests, it avoided heavily populated areas. At a briefing, Governor Ron DeSantis said it appears as if those who were in impacted areas really did heed officials' warnings to evacuate. DeSantis said search and rescue teams are finding that most homes they visit are empty.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: They've probably gone through about 70% of the areas that they need to to be able to check for people that are in distress. And, you know, so far, all signs have been positive.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so they're starting to clean up and they're continuing rescue efforts. What else are officials keeping an eye on?

ALLYN: Flooding. The storm dumped a tremendous amount of rain from Florida to the Carolinas. Some rainbands behind Idalia are expected today, so peak flood levels may yet to be realized. And it will take time for some of the rain that's already fallen to make its way through rivers. And the hurricane is coinciding with a rare supermoon, which is expected to further raise tides. So a mix of storm surge and high tide could prove deadly. So officials are urging residents to stay inside or to be extra careful. On top of that, the big focus is bringing power back, of course. Driving on these major roads and finding many non-working traffic signals is challenging and dangerous. So that lack of power is making everything here pretty chaotic right now.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Bobby Allyn in Lake City, Fla. Bobby, thanks.

ALLYN: Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.