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Hurricane Idalia forecasted to be ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 at landfall

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Hurricane Idalia is forecasted to become an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 intensity storm when it makes landfall in Florida Wednesday morning.

The storm is located about 125 miles west of Tampa and 185 miles south of Tallahassee, with maximum sustained winds remaining at 110 mph, according to Fox Weather. Idalia is moving to the north at 18 mph.

The National Hurricane Center announced at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night that Idalia continues to strengthen as it moves toward Florida and is expected to be an “extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane at landfall” in Florida’s Big Bend region with catastrophic storm surge inundation.

“There is the potential for destructive life-threatening winds where the core of Idalia moves onshore in the Big Bend region of Florida, with hurricane conditions expected elsewhere in portions of the Hurricane Warning area along the Florida Gulf Coast,” the National Hurricane Center said.

IDALIA UPGRADES TO CATEGORY 2 HURRICANE, AUTHORITIES WARN GULF COAST RESIDENTS TO LEAVE: ‘UNPRECEDENTED EVENT’

Hurricane Idalia

This Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, 1:31 p.m. EDT satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Idalia, center, approaching Floridas Gulf Coast, and Hurricane Franklin, right, as it moves along the East coast of the United States, southwest of Bermuda.  (NOAA via AP)

“Strong winds will also spread inland across portions of northern Florida and southern Georgia near the track of the center of Idalia where Hurricane Warnings are in effect,” the NHC continued. “Residents in these areas should be prepared for long-duration power outages. Damaging hurricane-force winds are possible in portions of eastern Georgia and southeastern South Carolina where Hurricane Watches are in effect.”

Local officials have urged residents in impacted areas to evacuate. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis warned earlier on Tuesday that first responders would be unable to reach people who stay until after the storm has passed. DeSantis said 49 counties are in a state of emergency, including 30 counties issuing evacuation orders amid concerns that a life-threatening storm surge could inundate coastal communities.

“Storm surge of this magnitude is not something we’ve ever seen in this part of Florida in any of our lifetimes,” DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “So, please, please take the appropriate precautions.”

Fort Myers Beach sustains floodwaters from Hurricane Idalia

Fort Myers Beach sustains floodwaters from Hurricane Idalia as the storm makes its way up the Gulf of Mexico and prepares to make landfall in Florida’s northern peninsula on Tuesday, August 29, 2023. (Dane Owens)

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At least 50 school districts have announced that they will remain closed for at least the next few days, and 29 state colleges and seven universities have canceled classes, Fox Weather reported. Multiple airports in Florida closed Tuesday afternoon and SunRail service in Orlando has been suspended until further notice. Bridges will also begin to close when winds reach 40 mph. 

Areas of flash, urban and moderate river flooding are expected across Florida’s Big Bend, central Georgia and South Carolina, as well as through eastern North Carolina into Thursday, the NHC said.

Idalia was nearing Category 3 as of late Tuesday as it continues to rapidly intensify in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Fox Weather.

Hurricane-Idalia

Fort Myers Beach sustains floodwaters from Hurricane Idalia as the storm makes its way up the Gulf of Mexico and prepares to make landfall in Florida’s northern peninsula on Tuesday, August 29, 2023. (Dane Owens)

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South Carolina Republican Gov. Henry McMaster declared a State of Emergency for the state on Tuesday.

The storm produced rainfall leading up to its landfall that began to flood parts of Florida, Fox Weather reported. Vehicles in Charlotte County were observed driving through shallow floodwater.

The first significant rain band will soon move onshore in Florida, resulting in heavy rain 30 to 50 mph wind gusts and a few tornado warnings, according to the Fox Forecast Center.

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