Hurricane Idalia: One More “Unprecedented” Disaster

By Kris W. Sky | Posted August 31, 2023

Hurricane Idalia has arrived.

The Category 3 storm already broke several records upon landing in Florida’s Big Bend, a relatively unpopulated region of Apalachee Bay, at 7:45 a.m. local time on Wednesday, August 30. With winds clocking at 125 mph, it “was the strongest hurricane” in that part of the state “in more than 125 years” and “the first major hurricane … through … Apalachee Bay.” It caused a storm surge, “the abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm,” of unprecedented amounts in areas like Cedar Key (above 8 feet), Tampa Bay (above 4.5 feet), and Clearwater Beach (at 4.05 feet). The surge also, “in a strange phenomenon, … reversed Florida’s Steinhatchee River,” where “water levels … [rose] 9 feet in two hours.”

Idalia flooded roads, including Interstate 275; felled power lines, affecting “more than 200,000 customers,” and trees, including a 100-year-old oak by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ home; destroyed buildings, boats, and signposts; and canceled or delayed thousands of flights.

Several hours later, Idalia moved into Georgia as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds, continuing its destructive course. “It’s unusual for a storm to be a hurricane for this long, so far from where it came ashore,” NPR veteran Russell Lewis was quoted as saying.

At a speed of about 20 mph, Idalia, after being downgraded to a tropical storm, struck South Carolina and is predicted to advance next into North Carolina. North Carolina is also expecting the aftermath from a second hurricane—Franklin, a Category 2. USA Today reported, “It’s the first time since 1950 the Atlantic Basin—which consists of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico—has had two Category 2 hurricanes with maximum sustained winds of more than 110 mph in August simultaneously, according to Phil Klotzbach, a research meteorologist at Colorado State University.”

The Rising Tide of Climate Change

As explained by Reuters, “hurricanes need two main ingredients—warm ocean water and moist, humid air.” The hotter the ocean gets, the greater the hurricanes. Enter climate change. CNN asserted, “Scientists have been alarmed at how warm ocean temperatures have been this year,” singling out Florida’s never-before-seen “hot tub-like water temperatures near 97 degrees Fahrenheit.” Reuters reported, “In the last 40 years, the ocean has absorbed about 90% of the warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. … This additional heat can fuel a storm’s intensity and power stronger winds.” The article furthermore stated, “During the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season—one of the most active on record—climate change boosted hourly rainfall rates in hurricane-force storms by 8%-11%, according to an April 2022 study in the journal Nature Communications.”

Climate change is also being potentially blamed for an increasingly longer storm season and an expanding landfall area. One study found that “the first named storms to make U.S. landfall now do so more than three weeks earlier than they did in 1900, nudging the start of the season into May.”

As for Idalia, its “rapid intensification” from a Category 1 to a Category 4 in a day’s time was attributed to its record-high, “nearly 88 degrees Fahrenheit” seawater. Deanne Criswell, the U.S.’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, confirmed, “What I can say is we are seeing an increase in the number of severe weather events. … And what we saw with this storm, as we have seen with several of our hurricanes over the last few years, is that they are intensifying more rapidly due to the elevated heat of the water temperature in the Gulf or in the Pacific or ... the Atlantic.”

Your Response to the Signs of the Times

“I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore,” said U.S. President Joe Biden in his remarks Wednesday. Pope Francis announced “a ‘second part’ to” “his landmark 2015 environmental encyclical” Laudato si’, to be released on October 4 of this year. And this past week saw an explosion of viral videos documenting various climate protests, from Nevada’s Burning Man to the streets of Germany.

The world has climate change on the brain—and not just because it’s hurricane season. It’s the wildfires, the heatwaves, the droughts, the floods—occurring at rapid-fire pace. Forbes reported, “In the last three years, the U.S. experienced an average of 20 billion-dollar disasters per year, up from 12.8 billion-dollar disasters per year in the 2010s and 6.7 billion-dollar disasters per year in the 2000s.” 

Jesus prophesied, “There will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11). These signs of the times are merely “the beginning of the birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8 NRSV). And birth pangs get faster, longer, and more intense. In other words, the storm isn’t over. What happens when a person gets pressured, squeezed, and pushed past his breaking point? What happens when climate activists are preventing him from getting to work on time, when his car is floating down the middle of a flooded street, and he can no longer “buy or sell” (Revelation 13:17)?

If you would have your houses, your treasured memories, your creature comforts rather than Jesus, the fragile balance of your humanity will one day snap. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). When we make Christ our shelter in the storm, “we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled” (Psalm 46:2, 3).

To learn what that means practically, watch our free presentation “A Storm Shelter.” The “shelter” God gives might just surprise you.

Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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