CEDAR KEY, Fla. (AP) — Follow live updates about Hurricane Idalia, which has made landfall in Florida as a dangerous Category 3 storm, unleashing life-threatening storm surges and rainfall.
— Feeding on some of the hottest water on the planet, Hurricane Idalia is rapidly strengthening as it bears down on Florida
— A rare blue supermoon could play a role in an unfolding disaster as Hurricane Idalia takes aim at Florida’s west coast
— Florida’s Big Bend is one of the last truly natural places in the state. Now it’s in the bull’s-eye of a major hurricane
The center of Hurricane Idalia is moving toward southern Georgia after passing to the east of Tallahassee, Florida.
The National Weather Service says tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph (62 kph) with a gust of 63 mph (101 kph) were reported Wednesday at the airport in Valdosta, Georgia.
On St. Simons Island, winds are picking up as the hurricane approaches on a course to rake the Georgia coast as it churns northward. During the morning high tide, waves broke over the rocks at the island’s pier, which was closed to visitors.
The island about 70 miles south of Savannah is Georgia’s most densely populated barrier island, with about 15,000 residents. It took back-to-back hits from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017, leaving hundreds of homes with flood damage.
St. Simons Bait & Tackle was one of the few businesses open Wednesday. Though nobody was fishing, Mary Hennig had customers dropping by for snacks and coffee. She plans to close by early afternoon and head to her home on the mainland.
“I think it’ll be OK just as long as you’re definitely indoors and hunkered down when it gets close to actually hitting,” said Hennig, whose husband is one of the store’s owners.
Hurricane Idalia is bringing flooding to the streets of Florida from Tampa to Tallahassee, a stretch of more than 200 miles (320 kilometers).
Residents in vulnerable coastal areas had been ordered to pack up and leave as Idalia gained strength. Mayor John Dailey of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, is urging everyone to stay put Wednesday because it’s too late to risk going outside.
“The time to evacuate has come and gone,” Dailey said on NBC’s “Today” show. “It is time to shelter in place.”
In Clearwater, in the Tampa Bay area’s Pinellas County, the city is asking those who remained despite a mandatory evacuation order to restrict their water and toilet usage because the stormwater system is strained.
County officials say flooding had been reported on roads throughout coastal areas. The county sheriff’s office closed access to barrier islands, and much of Gulf Boulevard, along the barrier islands, is closed because of significant flooding.
Hurricane Idalia was knocking out power in Florida after making landfall Wednesday morning. Over 200,000 customers were without power early Wednesday in the state, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide. The vast majority of outages were in the state’s Big Bend region, where Idalia made landfall. Outages were expected to grow throughout the day in Florida, as well as Georgia and South Carolina.
At 8 a.m., Idalia’s eye was just inland from the coast, about 10 miles (20 kilometers) south-southeast of Perry, with top winds of 120 mph (195 kph) and moving north-northeast at about 18 mph (30 kmh).
Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida’s west coast as a dangerous Category 3 storm on Wednesday, unleashing life-threatening storm surges and rainfall.
Idalia came ashore in the lightly populated Big Bend region, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula. The result could be a big blow to a state still dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian.
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned people in the path of Hurricane Idalia to “just hunker down until it gets past you.”
The National Hurricane Center expects storm surge to reach up to 16 feet (5 meters) in some areas of the Big Bend region, DeSantis said Wednesday at a news conference. Northeast Florida already had 11 tornado warnings and there were more possible, he said.
At 7 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Idalia was about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of Cedar Key and 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Tallahassee, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north at 18 mph (30 kph).
The U.S. Coast Guard is on standby and has pre-positioned 15 aircraft and more than 25 cutters and 20 flood response teams that are prepared to respond in the wake of the storm, Rear Admiral Douglas Schofield said. Crews flew over the western Florida area up to the Big Bend area and made call-outs to mariners to seek shelter. They’re ready to launch aircraft for urgent maritime search and rescue in the Tampa and Big Bend areas as the storm passes, he said.