DeSantis warns 16-foot surge possible from Idalia

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) warned shortly before Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Florida Big Bend on Wednesday morning that it could bring a storm surge approaching 16 feet.

“I think that it’s a hazardous situation,” DeSantis, a Republican presidential hopeful, said at Wednesday’s press conference. “If you end up with storm surge that even approaches that 16 feet, the chance of surviving that is not great. You would need to be maybe even like on a three-story building because it is going to rise very, very [high].”

“Once this passes, there will be rescue efforts done, if need be,” he added. “But it’s potentially very, very hazardous when you’re talking about really anything even approaching 10 feet but when you start talking about potentially 16 feet that is a huge, huge deal.”

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting peak storm surges between 12 and 16 feet from Wakulla/Jefferson County outside Tallahassee down to Yankeetown, just south of Cedar Key.

About 100 people had decided to stay on Cedar Key, a small island off the western coast of the Sunshine State, despite a mandatory evacuation order.

Cedar Key Mayor Heath Davis urged residents to leave the island on Tuesday afternoon, as the storm approached.

“We’re here to beg our citizens to heed this warning,” Davis said. “This storm is worse than we’ve ever seen. My family has been here for many generations. We haven’t seen a storm this bad, ever.”

Hurricane Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph sustained winds shortly before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, with the National Hurricane Center warning of the possibility of “catastrophic damage.”

“Water levels along the coast of the Florida Big Bend continue to rise rapidly,” the hurricane center wrote in an update, adding, “The combination of storm surge and tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”

–Updated at 8:57 a.m.

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