15.04.2024

Florida braces for Hurricane Idalia as DeSantis declares emergency for millions

Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to intensify into a major hurricane as it barrels toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, where authorities urged millions of residents to prepare to evacuate ahead of an expected landfall early on Wednesday.

Idalia, with maximum sustained winds of 65mph, was churning in the Caribbean on Monday about 90 miles off Cuba, moving north at 8mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm’s growing intensity and its current northerly track put some 20 million Floridians under hurricane and tropical storm watches.

Idalia is predicted to be Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale when it makes landfall in northern Florida’s Big Bend area, where the panhandle transitions into the peninsula.

“All Floridians, you need to be executing your plans,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a news conference. “This is going to be a major hurricane. This is going to be a powerful hurricane and this is absolutely going to impact the state of Florida.”

He added: “Keep in mind, if you are told to evacuate, you do not need to drive hundreds of miles, you do not need to leave the state of Florida. You basically need to go to higher ground.”

Along with torrential rain, winds of more than 110mph could result in a life-threatening storm surge.

DeSantis issued a state of emergency for 46 Florida counties covering most of the northern part of the state. Some 5,500 members of the National Guard were mobilised, with 2,400 high-water vehicles and a dozen aircraft deployed for rescue and recovery efforts.

Along with thousands of electric workers staged to help restore power quickly after the storm passes, the state has about 3 million gallons of drinking water and 1.5 million meals ready to hand out to people in need after the storm, DeSantis said.

To the east of Idalia, Hurricane Franklin, the first major hurricane of the season, meandered in the Atlantic, where it was forecast to turn to the northeast over the next two days. The Category 3 hurricane threatened heavy swells in Bermuda and the eastern seaboard throughout the week.

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