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Idalia officially a hurricane with Florida landfall expected Wednesday | CBC News

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Idalia became a hurricane on Tuesday as it intensified on a path toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the National Hurricane Center warning of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida in the next two days.

Hurricane Idalia was about 515 kilometres south-southwest of Tampa at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h, the hurricane centre said. Idalia was moving north at 22 km/h.

On Tuesday, it was expected to turn northeast at a faster pace, reaching Florida’s western coast as a dangerous major hurricane on Wednesday. It’s projected to have sustained winds of up to 193 km/h as it approaches Florida, which would make it a Category 3 hurricane.

Florida residents loaded up on sandbags and evacuated from homes in low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast as Idalia intensified Monday and forecasters predicted it would hit in days as a major hurricane with potentially life-threatening storm surges.

“You should be wrapping up your preparation for #TropicalStormIdalia tonight and Tues morning at the latest,” the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Just got to prepare for these things, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst and, you know, hunker down, as they say,” said Derek Hughes as he waited to load up his car with sandbags at a city park in Tampa.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, a broad swath that stretches across the northern half of the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast. The state has mobilized 1,100 National Guard members, who have 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft at their disposal for rescue and recovery efforts.

“The property — we can rebuild someone’s home,” DeSantis said during a news conference Monday. “You can’t unring the bell, though, if somebody stays in harm’s way and does battle with Mother Nature.”

Some airports closed

DeSantis said the Florida Department of Transportation would waive tolls on highways in the Tampa area and the Big Bend starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday to help ease any burden on people in the path of the storm.

Tampa International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport said they would close on Tuesday, and the Sunrail commuter rail service in Orlando was being suspended.

Large parts of the western coast of Florida are at risk for storm surges and floods. Evacuation 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 in low-lying and coastal areas, for those living in structures such as mobile and manufactured homes, recreational vehicles and boats, and for people who would be vulnerable in a power outage.

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

People use a blanket to cover their heads from rainfall while walking on a flooded street.
People walk Monday on a flooded street in Guanimar, Cuba after Idalia made landfall on the island. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

“They told us that our dorm building, especially, is prone to flooding,” said Erin Amiss, a student at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. MacDill Air Force Base, located on Tampa Bay, is preparing to evacuate several aircraft and began a mandatory evacuation Monday morning for personnel who live in local counties, the Air Force said in a statement.

As Gulf Coast residents packed up their cars or hauled out generators in case of power outages, state officials warned about potential fuel contamination at dozens of gas stations.

Heavy rains in Cuba

President Joe Biden spoke to DeSantis on Monday morning, and has approved an emergency declaration for the state, the White House said in a news release.

After moving across Florida, Idalia is forecast to blow through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

WATCH l Idalia drenches Cuba en route to expected Florida path:

Idalia soaks battered Cuba with heavy rains

Tropical Storm Idalia thrashed Cuba with punishing rains Sunday, as nearly 10 centimetres fell in some areas and authorities monitored the Cuyaguateje river for possible flooding.

As the state prepared, Idalia thrashed Cuba with heavy rain, especially in the westernmost part of the island, where the tobacco-producing province of Pinar del Rio is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian almost a year ago.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.

Hurricane Ian was responsible last year for almost 150 deaths. The Category 5 hurricane damaged 52,000 structures, nearly 20,000 of which were destroyed or severely damaged.



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