‘We are alive’: South Georgians and Floridians see widespread impacts from Idalia

Over 20,000 are still without power in Lowndes County.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 8:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - The damages of Hurricane Idalia made major impacts on Lowndes County and surrounding areas.

“Nobody was prepared for this. You ride through neighborhoods, there are so many trees down, so many power lines down. These are homes that these trees have ripped through and nobody was prepared for this,” JaTaryia Thomas, a Valdosta resident, said. “I been here 20 years and usually all we get is some wind and rain, but I’ve never seen anything like this in Valdosta.”

JaTaryia Thomas, her husband, Quincy Thomas, and their children were in the living room when they heard a loud bang in the back of their house. They discovered that a tree had fallen right on their oldest daughter’s bed. As they were preparing to get out of the home, they heard another sound and a tree fell near their living room.

Their oldest daughter walked a WALB crew to her room where the impact of the falling tree on top of her bedroom. The day after the storm, the family came back to pack clothes and essentials while they tried to find a hotel in preparation for school and work to start on Tuesday.

“You know people have to work and school. Kids have to go back to school, you know. Are we going to have power by Tuesday? There are so many things at play right now. And you always have to think about we were in the middle of a heat wave, COVID is still out there, the flu, strep throat, all that stuff was still going ‘round, and now this,” JaTaryia said. “It’s going to take time to repair. It’s sad, it’s sad. I’m not complaining, because my family is safe and we are alive. And we managed to get out the house no scratches, right? And for that I’m grateful.”

Hurricane Idalia touched down in Lowndes County on Wednesday morning wiping out all of the residential, commercial, and some emergency power sources. Leaving many with no food or gas for hours. The damage left houses irreparable, roadways blocked and stores closed for hours, including local gas stations.

Many had to travel elsewhere to get food and gas to survive the still very uncertain damages of the hurricane. On Thursday morning, the streets were flooded with people traveling from near and far, as Valdosta is the nearest city to many of the surrounding areas.

“Yesterday, we had to run all the way to Thomasville because there wasn’t any fuel or power up here. Thankfully, they’re open so this closer for us,” a Florida resident said. “We got our vehicles, our farm equipment. We’re from down out of Florida there’s nothing down there, so we had to come up here to get fuel. We just need it so we can run our saws to help cut people out the neighborhood and clear the roadways.”

One traveler from Tampa, Florida had a move to Tennessee planned for months but was interrupted by the storm as she traveled through Valdosta.

People from Florida received the initial impact of Hurricane Idalia.

“As soon as I was ready to leave, we had a hurricane. It wasn’t as bad in Tampa, we had rain and wind, but we didn’t have these crowds. I had no trouble getting gas for my trip,” Barbara Lynn, a Florida resident affected by Idalia said. “It’s just crazy, the traffic is nuts. I see all the down trees we don’t have there. It’s quite an experience to see the difference from there to here already.”

Currently, the nearest available hotels are over 80 miles away in Thomasville, leaving families to worry about living arrangements and gas in preparation for work and school if power is restored by Tuesday.