Idalia leaves path of destruction across southern Georgia

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers deploy to help residents clean up after strong winds and heavy rains damage homes, businesses


VALDOSTA, Ga. — Hurricane Idalia arrived in Georgia as a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph Wednesday morning, pummeling the state for several hours with heavy rain and strong winds that toppled trees, knocked out power, and triggered lowland flooding.

The storm headed back out to sea off Georgia's coast Wednesday night, leaving residents with the task of clearing the downed trees and shoveling mud from flooded homes and businesses.

The only confirmed death caused by the storm in Georgia was that of a man killed by a falling tree in Valdosta.

Some first responders in southern Georgia used boats to rescue stranded residents while others waded through murky floodwater to get people out of their homes. 

Utility crews were still working Thursday to restore power in hard-hit areas.

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are making their way into hard-hit areas to help with cleanup. 

Disaster Relief Director Dwain Carter said the deployment includes mobile kitchen crews, heavy equipment operators, chainsaw teams, chaplains, family care volunteers, mobile laundromats and shower units.

Their work is being concentrated in a five-county area around Valdosta where mosf of the Georgia damage was concentrated.

“Our teams are seeing lots of trees down,” Carter said. “There’s still no power in a lot of the area. Communications are very spotty at best. I would guess we’ll be there a minimum of three weeks.”

More than 24,000 homes and businesses in the Valdosta area still had no electrciity Thursday afternoon, and residents were bracing for several days without lights and air conditioning.

Idalia made landfall about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday in Florida as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. It had skirted across  Georgia's barrier islands  about 9 p.m. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp  said the the hurricane's impact would have been much worse.

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

The local sheriff, Ashley Paulk, said a Valdosta man who was clearing a tree off a road died when another tree fell on him.

Idalia had grown to a Category 4 hurricane at one point but weakened to a Category 3 before coming ashore in Florida.

Kemp had announced a state of emergency in advance of the storm’s arrival, freeing up state resources and personnel, including hundreds of National Guard troops.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a busier than usual hurricane season this year. Fueled by warm ocean water, hurricanes are most common in August and September, though the season runs through November.