CEDAR KEY, Fla. – Cedar Key, located 50 miles southwest of Gainesville, a small community in Florida’s Big Bend region sits about three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.
There is only one road into the town, State Road 24, which leads to the furthest most point on Cedar Key. Cedar Key is expected to be one of the hardest hit from Hurricane Idalia. The small beach island is 86 miles south of where the hurricane made landfall and it was directly in the storm’s path.
Local 10 News at the scene could see high-water rescue vehicles working to make their way out to the town that is a destination for vacationers and is home to 800 full-time residents, according to the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce.
“Cedar Key is a quiet island community nestled among many tiny keys on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Long admired for its natural beauty and abundant supply of seafood, it is a tranquil village, rich with the almost forgotten history of old Florida,” the chamber states on its website, describing the town as a community of quaint cottages, single-family homes, a working waterfront and aquaculture structures.
Currently, the rules are no one on or off the island as the Florida Department of Transportation checks roads and bridges for safety before they can open the roads to the public. There is also no power on Cedar Key. Electrical crews will have to wait until the roads are open to get in and restore power to the island.
At 7:17 a.m. Wednesday, Levy County sent a text to residents:
“Hurricane Idalia’s storm surge for our area is beginning . . .the water will rise from this point forward today. Anyone still in the coastal communities of Levy County that did not evacuate expect 12 to 16 feet of water to inendate (cq) your areas starting now and will continue rising until 12 pm today. Seek higher ground from this life threatening surge.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was making its way onto the island with 47 four-wheel drive vehicles, airboats, a drone unit, four swamp buggies and trailers full of supplies and generators to the area. On Tuesday night, video footage showed water surging onto State Road 24 but it appeared on Wednesday that the water had receded.
Rescue crews were working to make their way closer to the island to administer assistance; the public information officer for Cedar Key said that so far they had received no reports of injuries or loss of life.
As Local 10 made its way into the island Wednesday we saw flooded homes, snapped trees and flooded cars.
On its Facebook page, Cedar Key Fire Rescue posted: “We have propane tanks blowing off all over the island . . . we have no power, no water, no sewer and we are still underwater.”
The Associated Press reported that the fire and rescue department reported multiple trees down and debris in the roads. A tide gauge measured the storm surge at 6.8 feet, enough to submerge most of the downtown.