In her final media briefing on the impacts of Hurricane Idalia, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday evening, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan acknowledged that Duval County was lucky that it was spared the worst of the powerful storm’s impacts.
“Thank goodness. We have really been very, very fortunate, as you’ve seen, not so much our neighbors to the west,” Deegan said.
The county avoided widespread flooding damage to coastal areas seen in previous storms.
Hurricane Idalia slammed into the state as a powerful Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds and flooded streets and downed trees from Tampa to Tallahassee, a stretch of more than 200 miles.
The hardest hit was Florida’s Big Bend. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend region.
Deegan said help from Jacksonville is now on the way as the area begins cleanup efforts.
A total of 110 people from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and JEA loaded up Wednesday and will spend at least two weeks in Madison County, one of the hardest-hit areas in the state just east of Tallahassee.
“Those folks will be out there as long as they are needed. Please keep them in your prayers because obviously, that’s a lot of very dangerous work. But they were raring to go down there. So we’ve got some great folks here that want to go and help our neighbors,” Deegan said.
Deegan said the main concern locally now is power outages.
At one point on Wednesday, 85,000 JEA customers were without power, but as of 6 p.m., 74,000 had been restored, Deegan said.
The balustrade in Memorial Park in Riverside has substantial damage that will need repairs and Deegan said there’s also been some damage to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall which has also historically had some issues with water damage.