Hurricane Idalia strengthened to a Category 1 with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph on Tuesday, and is expected to “rapidly intensify” to a potential Category 3 hurricane before it makes landfall in Florida on Wednesday. According to the National Hurricane Center, Idalia threatens to bring high-risk storm surge along parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast, with hurricane warnings and watches in effect for parts of the Gulf Coast of Florida, with flooding is also likely in the region.
Models of Idalia published by the National Hurricane Center project it will make landfall in Florida’s Big Bend area, which is where the panhandle meets the peninsula, and which includes Tampa Bay. The storm is anticipated to arrive on Wednesday morning anywhere between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency covering 46 counties, and has activated the National Guard, with mandatory orders of evacuation in effect for some people in eight of those counties. DeSantis said: “This is going to be a major impact, and Floridians should expect that this storm will be a major Cat 3+ hurricane, so please prepare accordingly. You still have time this morning to make your final preparations .. but you gotta do that now. You do not have to leave the state. You don’t have to drive hundreds of miles. You have to get to higher ground in a safe structure. You can ride the storm out there, then go back to your home.”
DeSantis’ office also said that tolls were suspended early Tuesday morning along Florida’s west coast, and schools across more than three dozen Florida counties have closed. His office also said the Florida National Guard was mobilizing 1,100 personnel to support areas of the state that are impacted, and 12 aircrafts and 2,400 high wheel vehicles were also being mobilized.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also declared states of emergency ahead of Hurricane Idalia. Gov. Kemp said Tuesday in a statement: “We are taking every precaution ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall tomorrow, and I am taking this additional executive action to ensure state assets are ready to respond.”
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