Perry, Florida felt the brunt of Hurricane Idalia as it unleashed its fury on Wednesday, leaving a trail of chaos and devastation.
The storm’s initial presence was marked early Wednesday with intensifying winds and sharp raindrops. By 10 a.m., the Category 3 hurricane’s main force had moved through Perry. WPLG Local 10 correspondent Christian De La Rosa, stationed in Perry, noted the effects: uprooted trees, collapsed billboards, and wood debris damaging parked vehicles.
Long-time resident Patty Pickett conveyed the storm’s intensity to Local 10 News, “The winds were fierce – the strongest I’ve encountered.”
In a shocking sight, some gas stations had their pumps completely dislodged from the ground. Nearby residents expressed their relief that none caught fire. Road accessibility was also hindered due to the uprooting of trees and obliterated signages.
Florida Power & Light (FPL) reported that they had managed to restore power to over 100,000 customers by 11 a.m. However, 28,000 still remained in the dark. To combat this, FPL has mobilized a massive team of 12,000 individuals from Florida and 16 other states, spread across multiple staging locations.
With first responders overwhelmed by the aftermath, some Perry residents took the initiative to clear obstructions from their local roads. One resident, comparing Idalia to a storm they experienced in Massachusetts in ’78, remarked, “This was far more devastating than any snowstorm.”
Many in Perry heeded evacuation advisories, but a few chose to weather the storm from the relative safety of local hotels. Among the most concerned were those with properties in Steinhatchee, especially close to the waterside. Early morning reports indicated that Steinhatchee was grappling with severe flooding.
Despite the presence of the National Guard in Steinhatchee, local couple Arthur and Patricia Fletcher didn’t hesitate to jump in and assist. The couple cleared debris-blocked roads and witnessed the destruction of their neighbors’ vehicles due to fallen tree limbs.
With a sense of relief, Patricia Fletcher commented to CNN, “We’re grateful to be alive. Material things can be replaced, but lives cannot.”
Another resident, Amy Glover, experienced the terror of Idalia when her home’s roof was torn apart by the storm. “I expected rain and winds, not this level of destruction,” she shared.
Thankfully, as of Wednesday evening, no injuries were reported. Local authorities, however, cautioned residents as they continued their assessment of neighborhoods, particularly those like Steinhatchee, littered with downed power lines and trees.
Officials estimate a two to three-day window before power is fully restored in Perry and its adjacent regions.