BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — Strong winds and heavy rain lashed parts of the Southeast including Florida’s Gulf Coast, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday before making landfall through the Peach State. It then weakened to a tropical storm as it swept across South Carolina.
These former West New Yorkers say a hurricane is like preparing to head into a snowstorm, including buying food, fueling the car, stocking up on emergency supplies and, as former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin once said , maybe take a six-pack with you.
“That’s the price you pay to live in paradise,” said Martha Meegan of Gulfport, Florida.
Meegan moved to Florida from western New York a few years ago. She was in “Zone A,” the first zone to evacuate when a storm approaches. She decided not to leave her ninth-floor apartment because the storm took a turn and wasn’t targeting her area.
“There are units in our apartment that are on the first floor and all have a door and patio to their house there. These people took down their hurricane shutters and sandbags and a lot of them left,” Meegan said.
Joe Agostinelli says he faced high winds and lots of precipitation in Old Tampa Bay, but no storm surge. He says petrol stations are always full ahead of a possible evacuation and are still closed on Wednesday afternoon due to running out of fuel.
“The worst I’ve experienced was wind, rain and some storm surge, but I’m far enough up in Old Tampa Bay,” Agostinelli said. “If you think Wegmans are crazy on Christmas Eve, you could add Wegmans and Costco together on Christmas Eve and multiply that by 10 and this is what every gas station looks like when evacuation orders are issued.”
Meanwhile, Idalia was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved overland through the Carolinas.
Justin Carlson, who lives in Columbia, SC, says there is expected to be 20 inches of rain, but he says heavy rains and summer storms are normal in his area and are not as unpredictable as lake effect storms.
“The compromise for me is not to freeze and not have snow feet. That’s just wonderful. I mean, I can live with hurricanes all day,” Carlson said. “The winter storms I remember up there were like hurricanes but with snow, and it’s not like the water is going away because the snow keeps piling up. I prefer it down here because we’re usually ready to go.”
According to these ex-patriots, preparing for a storm in the Southeast is like preparing for a snowstorm in western New York.
“I’m approaching it like it’s a snowstorm in western New York, and the preparations you have to make are pretty much the same. “I stay prepared year-round because I don’t want to be the person who buys the last loaf of bread at the grocery store,” Meegan said.
Just as Lake Erie doesn’t freeze over in the winter, many in the Southeast fear the extremely warm waters in the Gulf and Atlantic could bring more powerful storms this hurricane season.