Florida Braces for Hurricane Idalia’s Landfall: Evacuations Ordered

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Tropical Storm Idalia has intensified into a hurricane as it approaches Florida’s Gulf Coast after passing near Cuba. The storm is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, potentially as a major Category 3 hurricane. Authorities have issued evacuation orders for affected areas and are urging residents to be prepared for the impact.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami predicts that Idalia will reach major-hurricane status with sustained winds exceeding 111 mph (179 kph) by Wednesday morning. The NHC’s latest projections indicate that the storm’s center will likely cross Florida’s coastline in the Big Bend region, where the northern panhandle curves into the Gulf side of the state.

The uncertainty surrounding Idalia’s path is causing concern as it moves northward over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 14 million Florida residents are currently under hurricane and tropical storm warnings.

The primary threat to human life from Idalia is the storm surge, which can cause coastal areas to be inundated with seawater due to high winds. Storm surge warnings are in effect along hundreds of miles of shoreline, from the Sarasota area in the north to Indian Pass at the western end of Apalachicola Bay.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has advised residents to be prepared and stated, “Buckle up for this one.” Idalia is expected to reach Category 3 intensity, making it a major hurricane, when it makes landfall on Wednesday. This would be the fourth major hurricane to strike Florida in the past seven years, following Irma in 2017, Michael in 2018, and Ian in 2020.

Meanwhile, as Idalia lingered near the western end of Cuba, significant preparations were made to evacuate coastal areas and secure homes and boats. The storm caused flooding in some areas, forcing people to seek higher ground. Cuban provinces, such as Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, were also affected by strong winds and heavy rain.

The evacuation process has begun in Florida, with barrier islands and low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast being cleared. Fishermen in Apalachicola Bay have moved their boats to higher ground, while others who couldn’t relocate their crab traps will have to assess their losses later.

Florida’s Gulf Coast, along with parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, is expected to experience torrential rains of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) from Tuesday through Thursday. This rainfall, combined with storm surges, could lead to scattered flooding. Schools in the region have canceled classes, and Tampa International Airport will suspend commercial operations on Tuesday.

Florida Governor DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, activating 5,500 National Guard troops and mobilizing thousands of electricity workers to restore power quickly after the storm passes.

Farther east in the Atlantic, Hurricane Franklin, the first major hurricane of the season, poses a threat to Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast. Although it is expected to turn towards the northeast, heavy swells are expected throughout the week.

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