BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Strong wind and heavy rain lashed parts of the southeast, including the Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday in the Big Bend region of Florida before moving on land through the Peach State. Then, it weakened to a tropical storm as it barreled through South Carolina.
These former Western New Yorkers say a hurricane is just like preparing to hunker down in a snowstorm, including buying food, gassing up the car, restocking emergency supplies and as former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin once said, maybe grabbing a six pack.
“It’s the price you pay to live in paradise,” Martha Meegan of Gulfport, Fla. said.
Meegan moved to Florida a few years ago from Western New York. She was in ‘Zone A’, which is the first zone to evacuate if a storm is approaching. She chose not to leave her ninth floor apartment because the storm took a turn and was not aiming for her area.
“There’s units in our condo that are on the first floor and they all have a door and a patio to their home there. Those people put down their hurricane shutters and sandbags and many of them left,” Meegan said.
In Old Tampa Bay, Joe Agostinelli says he was dealing with high winds and lots of rainfall, but no storm surge. He says gas stations are always busy ahead of a potential evacuation, and on Wednesday afternoon, they are still closed because there is no fuel left.
“The worst I got was wind, rain, some storm surge, but I’m far enough up on Old Tampa Bay,” Agostinelli said. “You think Wegmans on Christmas Eve is crazy, you could add Wegmans and Costco on Christmas Eve combined and multiply that by 10 and that’s what any gas station looks like when evacuation orders are given.”
Meanwhile, Idalia was downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed over land through the Carolinas.
Justin Carlson lives in Columbia, S.C. and says they are expected to get 8 inches of rain, but he says heavy rain and summer storms are normal for his area and not as unpredictable as lake effect storms.
“The trade off for me is not being cold and having feet of snow. That’s just wonderful. I mean I can live with hurricanes all day long,” Carlson said. “The winter storms up there that I remember were like hurricanes but with snow and it’s not like the water goes away because the snow just piles up, and piles up, and piles up. I prefer it down here because we are usually up and running right away.”
Preparing for a storm in the southeast is like getting read for a snowstorm in Western New York, according to these ex-patriots.
“I attack it as if it’s a Western New York snowstorm and the preparations you have to make are virtually the same. I stay prepared all year long because I don’t want to be the person in the grocery store buying the last loaf of bread,” Meegan said.
Just like when Lake Erie doesn’t freeze in the winter, many in the southeast are worried the extremely warm water in the Gulf and Atlantic could stir up more strong storms this hurricane season.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.