Tropical Storm Idalia update: Florida declares state of emergency as storm is expected to make landfall as Category 2 hurricane with 100mph winds and 11ft storm surges
A state of emergency has been declared in more than 30 Florida counties as Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to barrel into the coast as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday – with forecasters warning of storm surges, landslides and mass power outages. Idalia looks set to develop into a hurricane on Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico and then curve northeast toward the west coast of Florida, where it could make landfall with winds of up to 100mph.
Along a vast stretch of Florida’s west coast, up to 11 feet of ocean water could surge onshore, raising fears of destructive flooding. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday for most of the state’s Gulf coast as the weather system strengthens.
‘This thing hasn´t even gotten to Cuba yet, and the water in the Gulf is very, very warm and so that will provide some fuel for this thing to pick up some more speed,’ DeSantis said. DeSantis’ declaration covers the Gulf coast from the southwestern city of Fort Myers north through Panama City in the Panhandle. Thirty-three of the state’s 67 counties are covered in the declaration. The hurricane center says there’s a 70 percent chance the system will become a tropical storm by Monday and a 90 percent chance overall.
Currently, it would be named ‘Idalia’ if no other tropical storm forms before it. Forecast models do not show the storm’s center approaching the areas of southwest Florida where deadly Hurricane Ian struck last year. DeSantis said in a statement that he issued his executive order ‘out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the Florida Division of Emergency Management can begin staging resources and Floridians have plenty of time to prepare their families for a storm next week. ‘I encourage Floridians to have a plan in place and ensure that their hurricane supply kit is stocked,’ he added.
Florida emergency officials on Sunday urged residents to keep their vehicle gas tanks at least half-full in case they need to evacuate. ‘This will ensure you can evacuate tens of miles inland to a safe location should the need arise,’ the Florida Division of Emergency Management said on social media.
Florida has mobilized 1,100 National Guard members, and ‘they have at their disposal 2,400 high-water vehicles, as well as 12 aircraft that can be used for rescue and recovery efforts,’ said DeSantis, the Republican governor who is a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. ‘If you are in the path of this storm, you should expect power outages,’ he added. ‘So please prepare for that, particularly if this storm ends up coming in the Tallahassee region, there´s a lot trees that are going to get knocked down, the power lines are going to get knocked down – that is just going to happen, so just be prepared for that and be able to do what you need to do.’
Forecast models have the storm curving to the northeast toward Florida, coming ashore along the Gulf coast north of Tampa near the Big Bend area and then heading diagonally across the state to emerge again in the Atlantic Ocean near southeast Georgia. So far this year, the U.S. East Coast has been spared from cyclones. But out west, Tropical Storm Hilary caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures earlier this month in Mexico, California, Nevada and points to the north.
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