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Idalia Leaves Heavy Rains, But No Wind Damage

Charter Schools, Polk State, Government Offices Slated to Reopen

After causing a scare in the east Polk region by approaching Florida from the southwest, Hurricane Idalia behaved much as the computer models had predicted, staying well offshore of Florida's west coast before slamming into the Big Bend Area of the state as a Category Four Hurricane. That course left the Lake Wales area and surrounding communities undamaged due to winds.

Three times during the overnight hours tornado warnings caused alarms to sound on phones and tablets in the Lake Wales area after distinct rotations were noted in heavy squalls, indicating potential tornadoes, but in each instance there were no reports of damage.

Area students got a day off due to precautionary closings of area schools. Most Lake Wales area students will be back in class Thursday, since the Lake Wales Charter School trustees chose to call a one-day storm holiday. The schools reopening Thursday include Babson Park, Hillcrest, Polk Avenue, and Janie Howard Wilson Elementaries, Bok Academy North and South campuses, and Lake Wales High School.

The Polk School Board chose to close the county system for two days as the storm approached. That closing will remain in effect, with students returning to class on Friday at all Frostproof schools as well as Spook Hill and Dundee Elementaries and McLaughlin Middle-Senior High School in Lake Wales.

Polk State College, Warner University, and Webber International University will also operate normal schedules onj Thursday, according to reports.

As the storm passed without strong winds here, the rains came as a benefit for many after an unusually-dry spring and summer. A drenching rain that began about 4:00 pm on Tuesday continued overnight and much of Wednesday as a heavy band of storms streamed northward in the trail of the cyclone. That narrow but persistent band lingered directly over the Lake Wales area until about 7:00 pm, dumping four or more inches across the area over the 27-hour period.

The storm was fueled by record high water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic basin as the globe recorded its warmest month on record in June, only to be topped by July. Forecasters are now calling for an above-average Hurricane season, which reaches its peak during the next two weeks.

The possibility of Idalia's development had been described in a story more than two weeks before it happened. That prediction came after monitoring advanced weather models, one of which showed the developing tropical storm. At this time there are no similar indications of similar developments, but will continue to closely monitor future westher trends and models.


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