Idalia Devastates Homes and Towns along its Path as President Biden Visits Florida
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Idalia Devastates Homes and Towns along its Path as President Biden Visits Florida

Hurricanes and tropical storms are nothing new in the South, but the sheer magnitude of destruction from Idalia is devastating in Georgia and Florida

The storm first hit Florida as a hurricane and then weakened into a tropical storm as it made its way north, ripping through the town of 55,000.

Roads remained blocked by tree trunks and downed power lines, and traffic lights were still blacked out at major intersections.

The storm had 90 mph (145 kph) winds when it made a direct hit on Valdosta on Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.

“We’re fortunate this storm was a narrow one, and it was fast moving and didn’t sit on us,” Kemp told a news conference Thursday in Atlanta. “But if you were in the path, it was devastating. And we’re responding that way.”

One Georgia resident was killed when a tree fell on him as he tried to clear another tree from a road.

The storm first made landfall on  Wednesday in Florida, where it razed homes and downed power poles. It then swung northeast, slamming Georgia, flooding many of South Carolina’s beaches, and sending seawater into the streets of downtown Charleston. In North Carolina, it poured more than 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain on Whiteville, which flooded downtown buildings.Photos show the destruction left by Hurricane Idalia as it bashes Florida Destroyed Houses in Florida

Thousands of utility line workers rushed to restore power in Florida but nearly 95,000 customers were still without electricity Friday morning.

The storm had moved away from the U.S. coast early Thursday and spun out into the Atlantic, still packing winds of 60 mph (97 kph) on Friday. It could hit Bermuda on Saturday, bringing heavy rainfall and potential flash flooding to the island, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Meanwhile, residents along the path of destruction returned to pick through piles of rubble that used to be homes.

James Nobles returned to the tiny town of Horseshoe Beach in Florida to find his home had survived the battering winds and rain but many of his neighbors weren’t as fortunate.

“The town, I mean, it’s devastated,” Nobles said. “It’s probably 50 or 60 homes here, totally destroyed. I’m a lucky one.”

Florida officials said there was one hurricane-related death in the Gainesville area, but didn’t release any details.

But unlike previous storms, Idalia didn’t wreak havoc on major urban centers. Though Tampa Bay was partially damaged. In contrast, Hurricane Ian last year hit the heavily populated Fort Myers area, leaving 149 dead in the state.

President Joe Biden spoke to DeSantis and promised whatever federal aid is available. Biden also announced that he will go to Florida on Saturday to see the damage himself.