With Hurricane Idalia bearing down on Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people in the projected storm zone to act now to evacuate or prepare for serious damage from high winds and storm surge.
“We’re probably going to start feeling some impacts from this, depending on what part of the state you are, later today. You have time over these next hours to put into execution your plan. So, we encourage you to do that. We are going to have a lot of resources, or course, will be brought to bear as soon as the storm passes to get people back on their feet,” the governor said during a news conference in Wildwood.
DeSantis signed an executive order adding three counties to the emergency zone to ease communication with state agencies. The new list includes Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, and Wakulla counties.
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Idalia was located over the Gulf and moving north at 14 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds at 85 miles per hour. The forecast called for “castatrophic impacts” from 10 to 15 feet of storm surge and destructive waves between the Aucilla River and Yankeetown. “Life-threatening” storm surge was forecast elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Big Bend landfall
The storm’s core was expected to make landfall in the Big Bend area at around 8 a.m. Wednesday with a “potential for life-threatening winds, with hurricane conditions expected elsewhere in North Florida and the Gulf Coast, with strong winds spreading inland into South Georgia.
The last hurricane to hit the area out of the Gulf of Mexico, remarkable for its shallow water depths that can amplify storm surge, was Gordon in 2000.
Tallahassee, the capital city itself, was under a hurricane watch.
Line workers as far away as Nebraska, will be on hand to restore power, DeSantis said.
“This is a major hurricane. There’s going to be a lot of debris, particularly in that Big Bend area. We’re going to see a lot of power lines that are down,” he said.
The state has deployed 420,000 gallons of gasoline plus some 600 search and rescue workers, water, MREs, and tarps. Shelters have opened across the Gulf Coast. Additionally, the state has deployed 250 Starlink internet devices and more are available, DeSantis said.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Division of Emergency Management, advised people who depend on electric power for medical devices to evacuate — “whether that’s a friend, family, a hotel, or one of the shelters. Many, many shelters are going to be opening up across this entire impact area,” he said.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who serves as state fire marshal and oversees the Division of Insurance Regulation, advised homeowners to take a photographic inventory of their property, inside and out, to facilitate insurance claims.
“Today, right now, not tomorrow after the storm hits, right now,” Patronis said.
Numerous public schools, colleges, and universities in the storm region have announced closures, according to the Florida Department of Education.
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