People are moving out of the storms path….
Hurricane Idalia continued to build strength over the Gulf of Mexico’s abnormally warm waters on Tuesday, taking aim at a vulnerable but sparsely populated portion of Florida coastline known as the Big Bend, where the peninsula curves west into the Panhandle.
Evacuations were ordered in more than a dozen coastal counties as officials warned that the time to prepare was running out, and thousands of people were on the move away from the storm, including in communities still scarred by Hurricane Ian’s landfall 11 months ago.
Idalia (pronounced ee-DAL-ya) became a hurricane early Tuesday after swiping Cuba’s western shoreline, generating flash floods, and was expected to continue to strengthen before coming ashore as a Category 3 storm about 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
Here’s what to know:
At 11 a.m. Eastern time, Idalia was about 275 miles south-southwest of Tampa with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, making it a Category 1 hurricane. The storm could produce a life-threatening storm surge along much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including in Tampa Bay, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said.
Evacuations were recommended or ordered for low-lying areas up and down the Florida coastline. Last year, officials in Lee County, where Hurricane Ian made landfall, waited a day laterthan many neighboring counties to order evacuations.
Though the storm was in the Gulf, forecasters warned communities in South Carolina, Georgia and on the Atlantic coast of Florida to prepare for Idalia’s effects. Its track could take it along the Southeast coast and out to sea again by the weekend. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina also declared an emergency statewide, citing the potential for “significant impacts” from the storm. Here’s where it’s going after landfall.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida warned that many residents could lose electricity, and said 25,000 utility workers were on standby, with another 30,000 headed to the state. “Assume you are going to lose power if you are in the path of this storm,” the governor said at a news briefing on Tuesday with executives from utility companies, adding, “We have a lot of resources ready to go.”
The Big Bend region was last hit by Hurricane Hermine, a Category 1 storm, in 2016. The damage was limited, given the small population in the area; one person died. But an 1896 storm known as the Cedar Key Hurricane that came ashore there killed at least 70 people in the state. Here’s what to know about the Big Bend…..