Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in and around Florida‘s Big Bend region in anticipation of Tropical Storm Idalia becoming a major hurricane and slamming into the state’s Gulf Coast later this week.
The forecast as of Monday evening shows Tropical Storm Idalia will likely strengthen into a powerful Category 3 hurricane as it moves through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall early Wednesday, though the outer bands of the storm stretch out for miles beyond. Just before 8 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said in a post to X that Idalia was approaching hurricane strength while near the western tip of Cuba.
When monitoring #Idalia, remember:
– The cone only represents the probable track of the CENTER of the storm, it does NOT show the size of the storm
– Impacts will extend far outside of the area that is shown
– You should have your plan in place & heed all warnings from officials pic.twitter.com/QRMt9NifsK
— FL Division of Emergency Management (@FLSERT) August 28, 2023
Heavy rain, flooding, storm surge, strong winds, and even tornados could impact Florida as well as neighboring states, as Idalia is expected to swing through the Panhandle and sweep up along the coastline of Georgia and the Carolinas through the end of the week. But the National Hurricane Center warned on Monday that certain aspects of the forecast, including the track of the storm, could shift over time.
In addition to the life-threatening storm surge inundation and hurricane conditions expected along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast from #Idalia, a stripe of tropical and excessive rainfall may produce flash and urban flooding from northern Florida to the eastern Carolinas. pic.twitter.com/DQ6KE1Mu79
— National Weather Service (@NWS) August 28, 2023
Officials in a western Florida coastal stretch ranging from Taylor County down to Sarasota County — including the greater Tampa Bay region — have directed people in low-lying zones and vulnerable structures to leave their homes ahead of the storm. There were also some voluntary evacuation areas.
Emergency shelters are set to open up and tolls are being suspended as all sorts of hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings have been issued. Residents have been advised to adhere to local announcements and make preparations, including for power outages. In addition, schools are closing across Florida, sandbags are being made available to residents, and Tampa International Airport is slated to suspend commercial operations on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Florida, unlocking federal assistance for state, tribal, and local response efforts related to Idalia. And Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has paused his presidential campaign, has been busy helping spearhead preparations. Over the past couple days, DeSantis has worked to mobilize resources, issued a state of emergency in dozens of counties, delivered in-person updates on Idalia, and visited multiple counties expected to be at the forefront of the weather event.
“For those in the potential path of this storm, stay tuned for updates & heed all evacuation orders,” DeSantis said on Monday in a post to X directing people to follow the Florida Division of Emergency Management for the most up-to-date information.
As of 5 p.m. #Idalia is forecast to make landfall at Florida’s Big Bend on Wednesday as a major hurricane. For those in the potential path of this storm, stay tuned for updates & heed all evacuation orders.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) August 28, 2023
Far off the eastern coast of Florida is another tropical system, Hurricane Franklin, which is not expected to hit the United States but did lead to warnings about life-threatening storm surge and rip currents along the southeastern coastline of the country.