Florida: Hurricane Idalia intensifies to a dangerous Category 4 hurricane ahead of its landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast newsbhunt


Editor’s Note: Affected by the storm? Use CNN’s lite site for low bandwidth.


Hurricane Idalia has intensified into a dangerous Category 4 hurricane, packing monster winds of 130 mph as it turns streets to rivers and knocks out power along Florida’s western shore ahead of an expected landfall Wednesday morning on the state’s Gulf Coast.

With residents warned to flee and the National Guard prepping for rescues, the “extremely dangerous” storm is expected to strike the Big Bend coast linking Florida’s panhandle and peninsula with once-in-a-lifetime damaging winds and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 16 feet, the National Hurricane Center said.

“There is great potential for death and catastrophic devastation,” warned the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, in the Big Bend region southeast of Tallahassee.


Still rapidly intensifying around 5 a.m. about 60 miles west-southwest of Cedar Key, Florida, Idalia also is now expected to stay a hurricane for longer, with hurricane warnings issued for southeastern Georgia and South Carolina, the hurricane center said.

And a tornado watch is in place for nearly 12 million people across central and northern Florida and southeast Georgia until 3 p.m., Wednesday, as conditions continue to deteriorate, with coastal streets and lots flooding in places including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Myers Beach as ocean water pushes ashore, rain pours down and winds whip.

Track Idalia here >>

As its eye moves onshore in the Big Bend region, Idalia’s core will bring destructive winds and storm surge high enough to stack a wall of seawater halfway up the second floor of an average building. It could be the first major hurricane at Category 3 or stronger to hit the area.

“This has the makings of an unprecedented event for this part of the state,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee said. “There are NO major hurricanes in the historical dataset going back to 1851 that have tracked into Apalachee Bay. None.

“Don’t mess around with this one.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of “significant, significant impact” to the Big Bend region, saying first responders will not be able to reach the few people who have stayed in evacuation zones until after the storm passes.

“You really got to go now,” he urged Big Bend residents Tuesday evening. “Now’s the time.”

Do not try to “‘ride’ this one out,” police told residents in the Big Bend city of Perry, adding storm surge higher than 15 feet is “not survivable if you are caught in it.” Storm surge accounts for nearly half of all hurricane-related fatalities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

In Tampa, well south of the projected landfall zone, Idalia’s storm surge began to flood streets Tuesday within a half-hour, Police Chief Lee Bercaw said.

“I witnessed for myself people driving in the water,” he said at a storm briefing Tuesday. “Don’t be that person. Remember: Turn around, don’t drown.”

Storm surge could cut off Cedar Key, on the southern side of the Big Bend, National Hurricane Center Deputy Director Jamie Rhome said.

“This storm is worse than we’ve ever seen. My family has been here for many generations, we haven’t seen a storm this bad, ever,” Mayor Heath Davis said Tuesday, warning that all emergency services would stop Tuesday evening as winds pick up.

Here are other developments around the state:

Evacuations in at least 28 counties: Alachua, Baker, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, Sarasota, Suwannee, Sumter, Taylor, Union, Volusia and Wakulla have all issued evacuation orders, some mandatory.

• Power knocked out: Nearly 66,000 customers have no power early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.com.

Travel halted: Hundreds of flights have been canceled as Tampa International Airport suspended commercial operations and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Terminal building closed Tuesday.

National Guard is deployed: Around 5,500 National Guard troops have been deployed, bracing to help with any search and rescue efforts after landfall.

Hospitals suspend services: Patients were being transferred from at least three hospitals: HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital, HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital and HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital. Meanwhile, Tampa General Hospital was constructing a water-impermeable barrier to remain open for emergency care.

Bridges will close: DeSantis warned residents in the path of Hurricane Idalia that once winds reach 40 mph or more, bridges will not be “safe to traverse” and will be shut down. High winds led officials to close the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects St. Petersburg to Manatee County, Pinellas County Emergency Management announced Wednesday morning.

Schools and universities close: 50 county school districts have issued closures, as did dozens of college and university systems across Florida.

Thousands of inmates evacuated: Roughly 4,000 inmates were evacuated or relocated to facilities better equipped to handle the storm, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Much of Florida under state of emergency: DeSantis has issued an emergency declaration to 49 of 67 Florida counties.

Florida won’t be the only state feeling Idalia’s impacts. After the storm makes landfall, damaging winds and heavy rain will spread far inland into Florida, parts of Georgia and even the Carolinas.

After hitting Florida, Idalia’s center is forecast to move near or along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina late Wednesday and Thursday, the hurricane center said.

“Idalia is likely to still be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia, and possibly when it reaches the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina late today,” the hurricane center said Wednesday morning.

North Carolina and Georgia have also declared states of emergency as they prepare for floods and hurricane force winds.


#Florida #Hurricane #Idalia #intensifies #dangerous #Category #hurricane #ahead #landfall #Floridas #Gulf #Coast

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours