Hurricane Idalia: Citrus County issues curfew for residents in Flood Zone A, travel prohibited

It's been a long day for those working to rescue residents who chose to ride out Hurricane Idalia

The storm surge swamped coastal areas all along the Tampa Bay area, and it led to a lot of rescues inside the evacuation zones. Citrus County deputies have been using airboats to reach people who are calling 911, saying they need to be rescued. 

They said 18,000 people live in Flood Zone A, which is mostly on the west side of the county near the Gulf of Mexico. Right now, they don't know how many evacuated or how many are still waiting to be rescued. 

MORE: Hurricane Idalia info: County-by-county

So far, 60 people have been rescued who found themselves trapped by water in unlivable conditions. Citrus County Board of Commissioners issued a mandatory curfew Wednesday for Zone A from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., prohibiting travel within Zone A.

Citizens who live in this area will not be permitted to return until this curfew is lifted and conditions have been deemed safe. More than likely, those in the affected area are without power as well. Restoration efforts have begun and will continue for an unknown period of time.

Those who have lived in Citrus County for decades are at a loss for words, especially ones who were chased from their homes by rising water. 

"I am 64 years old. This is home. I thank God it is not as bad as it is," said Bernice Brown, a Crystal River resident. "At the end of the day, this little town is home. It has been good to us. We are blessed. We are surrounded by water, it could have been worse. Just to see how heartbroken people are, who lost so much."

"Everybody who was in Zone A, last night and early this morning, before the surge started coming in when Hurricane Idalia was making landfall in the panhandle and big bend area, there were still people at home in Crystal River, at home in Homosassa, and down in Chasa, they hadn't left, unfortunately we don't have the assets to knock on every person's door," Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast said. 

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As of Wednesday night, floodwaters had receded quite a bit, but parts of U.S. 19 and side streets throughout Crystal River remained closed due to flooding.

US HWY 19, from CR 488 (West Dunnellon Road) to West Venable Street in Crystal River, and the portion of roadway from West Gulf to Lake HWY (SR 44) to US HWY 19 are still closed.

As of Wednesday night, several thousand people throughout Citrus County were still without power.

Neighbors spent Wednesday afternoon wading through floodwaters to get back to their homes and assess the damage.

"We were just watching on security cameras," Crystal River resident Sonya Sheppard said. "And 6:00 this morning, it, you know, it didn't look that bad."

Some neighbors evacuated, heeding the warnings from officials. Sheppard and her family watched the flooding Wednesday morning from their security cameras.

She said the water came fast and furiously toward their home.

"9 a.m. or 9:15 a.m., that's when we noticed the water starting to flow in between our apartment and the actual main house," Sheppard said. "And it was like a river. And it just filled up fast."

"It's probably better than I was expecting," Sheppard said. "Like, I was expecting worse. Because after we lost power, I had no idea how high it went."

Cars were left abandoned in the streets around Crystal River.

"Devastated, my car is full of water," Homosassa resident Marcia Rozier said. "I was scared, the water can sweep you away in a matter of minutes. I am from Texas and have seen it happen a lot of times, and it is horrifying."

The Citizen Information Line, 352-249-2775, will close at 5 p.m. on Friday. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office said all shelters will close on Thursday.