Idalia strengthens into a hurricane, and serious storm surge is expected in Florida’s Gulf Coast


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Idalia became a hurricane on Tuesday as it intensified on a path toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, as the National Hurricane Center warned of an increased risk of a life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida in the next two days.

The hurricane center said winds were expected to reach 120 mph (193 kph) as it approached Florida. This would make it a Category 3 hurricane. The center of Idealia is expected to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday, reach the Florida Gulf Coast within the hurricane warning area on Wednesday, and approach the Carolina coast on Thursday.

Floridians loaded sandbags and evacuated from their homes in low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast Idalia It intensified on Monday and forecasters predicted it would arrive within days Big hurricane With storms that may threaten life.

“You should finish your preparations for #TropicalStormIdalia tonight and Tuesday morning at the latest,” the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay said Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

As the state preparedCuba has been battered by torrential rains, especially in the western part of the island, where the tobacco-producing region of Pinar del Rio is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian nearly a year ago.

Authorities in the province have issued a state of alert, and residents have been evacuated to the homes of friends and relatives while authorities monitor the Cuyaguategi River for flooding. Weather stations reported that up to 10 centimeters (4 inches) of rain fell in Cuba on Sunday.

Hurricane Idalia is expected to begin affecting Florida with hurricane-force winds late Tuesday and reach the coast by Wednesday. This is the first storm to hit Florida this hurricane season, and it is likely to be a major blow to the state, which is also dealing with Residual damage from Hurricane Ian last year.

Idalia is also the latest in the summer of natural disasters, incl Wildfires in Hawaii, Canada and Greece; the first Tropical storm to hit california at 84, and devastating floods in Vermont.

“We just have to prepare for this stuff, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, you know, hunker down, as they say,” said Derek Hughes as he waited for his car to be sandbagged at City Park in New York City. Tampa.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, a wide area stretching across the northern half of the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic coast. The state has mobilized 1,100 National Guard personnel, who have 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft at their disposal for rescue and recovery efforts.

Tampa International Airport and St. Pete Clearwater International Airport said they would be closed on Tuesday, and Sunrail commuter rail service to Orlando was also suspended.

DeSantis warned of a “significant impact” on the state, noting the possibility of Hurricane Idalia becoming a Category 3 hurricane.

“Property – we can rebuild someone’s house,” DeSantis said during a news conference on Monday. “However, you can’t cancel the bell if someone stays in harm’s way and gets into a fight with Mother Nature.”

DeSantis said the Florida Department of Transportation will waive freeway tolls in the Tampa and Big Bend area beginning at 4 a.m. Tuesday to help ease any burden on people in the storm’s path.

Large portions of Florida’s west coast are at risk from storm surge and flooding. Eviction notices have been issued in 21 counties with mandatory orders for some people in eight of those counties. Many of the notices were for people who live in low-lying and coastal areas, for those who live in buildings such as mobile and manufactured homes, recreational vehicles and boats, and for people who may be at risk in the event of a power outage.

Pasco and Levy counties, both north of Tampa, ordered mandatory evacuation of some residents. And in Levy County, officials said Cedar Key residents must leave the island by Tuesday evening because storm surges will make the bridges impassable.

“Once storms hit, help may not be available to reach you,” the county said in a public warning.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane warning Monday from Longboat Key in the Sarasota area to the Holocene River, as far as Tampa Bay.

Several school districts along the Gulf Coast said they would close Tuesday and Wednesday. Several colleges and universities said they would close their campuses on Tuesday, including the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“They told us that our dorm, in particular, is vulnerable to flooding,” said Erin Amis, a student at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

The Air Force said in a statement that MacDill Air Force Base, located on Tampa Bay, is preparing to evacuate several aircraft and began a mandatory evacuation process Monday morning for employees who live in local counties.

Tampa resident Grace Cruz, who has lived in the state for more than 40 years, stocked up on patio furniture, filled her car with gas, and loaded it with sandbags. She worried about the tens of thousands of new Florida residents who had never been hit by a hurricane, and had some advice for them.

“If you’re planning to get away, you have to start early because of the traffic,” Cruz said. “Don’t be kidding. It’s terrible.”

State officials warned of this as Gulf Coast residents mobilized their cars or pulled out generators in case of a power outage Possible fuel contamination At dozens of gas stations.

The White House said in a press release that President Joe Biden spoke to DeSantis on Monday morning, telling the Florida governor that he had approved the state’s emergency declaration. DeSantis is running for Republican presidential nomination In the year 2024.

Southwest Florida is Still recovering from Hurricane Ian, which was responsible for last year Nearly 150 deaths. The Category 5 hurricane destroyed 52,000 structures, of which nearly 20,000 were destroyed or severely damaged.

At 5 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Hurricane Adalia was located about 370 miles (600 kilometers) south-southwest of Tampa, with sustained winds of maximum 75 meters per second (270 kilometers per hour) as of 2100 GMT, the hurricane center said. five A.M. Idalia was moving north at 14 mph (22 kph). On Tuesday it is expected to turn northeast at a faster pace, reaching Florida’s west coast as a dangerously large hurricane on Wednesday.

After moving through Florida, Hurricane Adalia is expected to pass through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

So far this year, the US East Coast has been spared from hurricanes. But in the West earlier this month, Tropical Storm Hillary It caused widespread flooding, mudslides, and road closures in Mexico, California, Nevada, and northern regions.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration He said recently The 2023 hurricane season will be much busier than initially anticipated, in part due to very warm ocean temperatures. The season lasts until November 30, and August and September are usually at their peak.


Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; Cristiana Mesquita in Havana; Mike Schneider in St. Louis, Missouri; Lisa Bowman in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

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