Hurricane Idalia ‘worse than Hermine’ for Crystal River, coastal Citrus County

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'This is a terrible flood event.'

Crystal River won’t soon forget Hurricane Idalia.

Storm surge combined with high tides brought flood waters pouring into Citrus County’s coastal city, eliciting painful memories of Hurricane Hermine in 2016 and the March 1993 “no-name” storm.

“This is a terrible flood event,” Josh Wooten, President and CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said on a Facebook video message. “We’ve talked with some of the locals who are outside who say it’s worse than Hermine.”

The Citrus County Sheriff’s office said it was rescuing residents stranded by high water. Video showed Sheriff’s airboats carrying passengers along U.S. 19.

Sixty people had been rescued by late afternoon, most in Crystal River. Others were awaiting rescue, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Citrus County’s coastal communities of Crystal River, Ozello and Homosassa are susceptible to storm surge with high tides. All three were inundated with Idalia storm surge as the hurricane moved north through the Gulf of Mexico.

Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek posted photos of a flooded downtown, all highways and roads impassable other than by watercraft.

“Surge levels continue to rise, unfortunately water will be in a substantial number of homes throughout the city at this point,” Meek wrote.

The Sheriff’s Office asked citizens to stay away from the county’s west side.

Wooten said the flooding is widespread and deep.

“There is severe damage to residents and businesses west of U.S. 19, and those on U.S. 19,” he said.

Sheriff Mike Prendergast said in a news conference that many people ignored the county’s mandatory evacuation order.

“When Hurricane Idalia was making landfall in the Big Bend area, there were still people home in Crystal River. There were still people home in Homosassa and down in Chassahowitzka,” he said. “We don’t have the assets to knock on every person’s door. That’s why we use mass notifications systems.”

No fatalities were reported, but Prendergast said one person was severely injured after touching a live electrical wire.

Prendergast said water was four feet deep in downtown Crystal River.

“I’ve never seen a dumpster floating down Highway 19,” he said, “but I saw two of those today.”

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


  • Robert Peterson

    August 30, 2023 at 7:10 pm

    Everybody west of U.S. 19 knew to evacuate. Their ignorance and selfishness only wasted county resources and risked the safety of emergency personnel. Thankful for our first responders, but disappointed in our neighbors who refused to be responsible citizens.

  • M Case

    August 30, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    show some humanity and compassion, not everyone believed it would be that bad. I’m greatful Inverness wasn’t affected and sorry for their losses.

  • JudyBee

    August 30, 2023 at 8:49 pm

    Hermine date is wrong year. It was 2016.

    • bill

      August 31, 2023 at 10:07 am

      It says 2016

  • Alli

    August 31, 2023 at 11:29 am

    Our house in Old Homosassa didn’t get water inside with Hermine but was up to doorstep. I don’t think the new owners were so lucky. Haven’t gotten word yet. We sold it and bought on high ground on the river in Dunnellon. I knew only a matter of time and was tired of always worrying about it since we didn’t live there. My husband offered help to come with our airboat but Citrus said they were fine and to check with Levy. The day before I texted with friends to come stay at our guest house in Dunnellon but they wanted to ride it out. Last I heard yesterday is they were flooding and trying to save what they could. I offered also for my husband to come rescue them but they declined.

Comments are closed.


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