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What to know about Idalia
- Idalia strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane early this afternoon. By 11 p.m. ET, it had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, 1 mph shy of becoming a Category 3 hurricane.
- The system is expected to be an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane at landfall tomorrow.
- Idalia is expected to make landfall between 6 and 9 a.m. ET tomorrow south of Perry, Florida. In the state's Big Bend area, forecasters are warning of a record-breaking storm surge of 10 to 15 feet.
- The Tampa area, 200 miles south of where Idalia is expected to make landfall, could experience damaging storm surge early tomorrow.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the National Guard. President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration. Georgia and South Carolina declared states of emergency.
New York City sends search-and-rescue team to South Carolina
A search-and-rescue team arrived in South Carolina today in anticipation of hurricane impacts, New York City Emergency Management officials said.
New York Task Force 1 is composed of 46 specially trained first responders from the city's police, fire and emergency management departments, and it also includes two trained dogs, according to a statement.
At the behest of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the team will be "pre-positioned" to respond to any emergencies created if Idalia moves into South Carolina, which forecasters expect, emergency management said in the statement.
“When the federal government sounds the call for assistance, New York City is there to answer,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said in the statement.
When did the last Category 4 hurricane hit Florida?
Whether it makes landfall as a Category 3 or a more powerful Category 4 hurricane, Idalia will make history.
The last Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida was only last year, when Ian made landfall in southwestern mainland Florida on Sept. 28.
It ultimately was blamed for more than 150 deaths and $112 billion in damage, a record amount for tropical cyclones in Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ian also made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane in Cuba before it hit Florida and as a Category 1 storm in South Carolina after its landfall in Florida.
Many island communities throughout the Keys flooded, and some of the worst damage occurred in Fort Lauderdale.
The highest recorded wind speeds were 100 to 120 mph, and the maximum storm surge was about 18 feet, mostly south of Chokoloskee, according to the National Weather Service.
Wilma resulted in at least five deaths in the U.S. and about $20.6 billion in property damage, according to the Florida Institute of Technology.
Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said today the simultaneous presence of Idalia and Franklin, which is 245 miles west of Bermuda, is the first time since 1950 two tropical cyclones with greater than 110 mph sustained winds have co-existed in the Atlantic.
Idalia now expected to reach Category 4 by landfall
Idalia is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane by the time it makes landfall along Florida's Big Bend region tomorrow morning, the National Hurricane Center said late tonight.
A Category 4 brings with it the possibility of catastrophic damage, structural damage and uprooted trees and utility poles, the hurricane center says. It means some areas might not be habitable for weeks.
With sustained winds of 110 mph, the storm was 1 mph shy of Category 3 on its way to the more powerful Category 4 status, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Sustained winds of 111 mph would put it at Category 3. Sustained winds of 130 or greater would make it a Category 4 storm. Either would mean a shift from hurricane to major hurricane, a status given at Category 3 and higher.
The hurricane was about 125 miles west of Tampa and gaining strength, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north at 18 mph and was expected to make landfall sometime in the morning.
Full-service hospital in Perry moves patients
The full-service hospital serving Taylor County, Doctors' Memorial Hospital, said it has shifted all patients to other facilities as a precaution.
The hospital in Perry, southeast of Tallahassee and inland of the coastline's Big Bend, will keep its emergency department open, interim CEO Lauren Faison-Clark said.
"In preparation for Hurricane Idalia, Doctors’ Memorial Hospital in Perry, FL proactively moved all inpatients to other facilities for care," she said.
Idalia is expected to make landfall south of Perry tomorrow morning, according to NBC News' Weather and Climate Unit.
The rural county has more than 21,000 residents, the state Health Department said last year.
Uber offering free rides to Florida shelters for evacuees
Uber announced it will provide free round-trip rides to shelters for residents evacuating during Hurricane Idalia.
Free rides can be up to $35 each way and can be used for shelter locations in the following counties: Alachua, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Sumter, Union and Volusia.
Nearly half of Florida is under a tornado watch
Nearly all of Florida's western coastline is under a tornado watch.
The watch, which is in effect until 6 a.m. tomorrow, covers 22 counties from the area from roughly Bonita Springs to the start of the Big Bend, according to the National Weather Service.
The watch means that tornadoes are possible and that residents should be ready in case the next level of alert is issued — a warning.
The weather service said a waterspout, essentially an over-sea cyclone or tornado, was spotted off the Tampa Bay-area coast today.
Surge seems to be hitting Tampa at low tide
Idalia is about as close as it is going to get to Tampa over the next three hours. There are signs the storm surge is increasing.
It's almost low tide, but the water is no longer dropping — it is slightly rising. The water level is 1.58 feet above the predicted normal tide — so almost a 2-foot surge.
Luckily for Tampa, the surge is hitting at the best possible time — low tide.
Power out? Don't call 911
The Pinellas County government urged Tampa-area residents not to call 911 if they lose power tonight.
It's going to happen, they say.
"Hurricane Idalia will bring strong winds overnight, so power outages are likely," the county said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Residents can call Duke Energy — not 911 — to report outages, the county said.
The area was under a tornado watch, a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning through tomorrow, the National Weather Service said.
Hospitals say they're working together to get ready to meet Florida's needs
Hospitals in the storm's path are preparing to support patients and communities before Idalia makes landfall.
The Florida Hospital Association said it is coordinating with member hospitals and state leaders to identify any unmet needs and deliver vital resources.
Florida hospitals have been "comprehensively evaluating their facilities" and "implementing backup communication systems," the agency said in a statement.
“Florida hospitals are committed to remaining open and maintaining 24/7 operations as long as they are able to do so safely and reopening as soon as possible after the storm,” said its president, Mary Mayhew, .
Gainesville orders evacuations for mobile, prefab homes
Idalia 'likely to become a major hurricane soon'
Hurricane Idalia continues to strengthen and is on a path to become a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall.
At 8 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is "likely to become a major hurricane soon."
The storm had winds of 105 mph at the latest update, confirming rapid intensification from 70 mph to 105 mph within 24 hours.
Storm category classifications and what they mean
Hurricane Idalia is a Category 2 storm, and it is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 before it makes landfall tomorrow morning. What do those categories mean?
Hurricanes are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: 1 through 5. They are based on a hurricane's maximum sustained wind speed, which leads to different levels of damage.
The National Weather Service classifies storms this way:
Category 1: Wind speeds of 74 to 95 mph producing some damage
Category 2: Wind speeds of 96 to 110 mph producing extensive damage
Category 3: Wind speeds of 111 to 129 mph producing devastating damage
Category 4: Wind speeds of 130 to 156 mph producing catastrophic damage
Category 5: Wind speeds of 157 mph or higher producing catastrophic damage
For more information, click here.
On Cedar Key, staying put isn’t an option, official says
On the island of Cedar Key, Commissioner Sue Colson joined other city officials in packing up documents and electronics at City Hall.
She had a message for the almost 900 residents who were under mandatory orders to evacuate. More than a dozen state troopers went door to door warning residents that storm surge could rise as high as 15 feet.
“One word: leave,” Colson said. “It’s not something to discuss.”
About 200 miles of Florida coastline are at risk
Hurricane Idalia could cause record-breaking storm surge and widespread wind damage, according to the NBC News Climate Unit.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning just south of Perry, Florida, between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. As the hurricane hits the ground, storm surge damage is expected to stretch for about 200 miles along Florida’s west coast, past the Tampa Bay area. Florida’s Big Bend area could see between 10 and 15 feet of storm surge.
Near the eye of the storm, the climate unit is forecasting tornado-like damage about 20-30 miles inland.
Flash flooding and torrential rain are likely between Tallahassee and Lake City.
The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee said “locations may be uninhabitable for several weeks or months” because of wind damage. Storm surge could prevent access, too.
Central and North Florida could see tornadoes all day, according to the climate unit. Coastal flooding is expected during evening high tide between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, as the storm weakens and progresses north.
In Tallahassee, folks are hoping for the best while prepping for the worst
Coming off a hot summer and a year out from the devastation of Hurricane Ian, people in Tallahassee are cautiously optimistic about staying put and riding out the storm.
Ben Ivey took on the task of getting 20 sandbags for his home, which he knows from experience can flood if water doesn't work its way down the hill fast enough. He and his wife, who gave birth to their second child in July, decided against evacuating because they thought Idalia would hit Tampa instead.
"I still think this is going to turn; we just don't know how far yet," Ivey said. "I don't think it's gonna be the size of, you know, Ian, from what we can tell but wherever it is, it's still going to be pretty bad."
And if Idalia strengthens into a Category 4, Ivey said to ask his wife what to do.
"I'm gonna do whatever my wife tells me," he said. "She says 'Leave,' leave. But we definitely have a safe place to stay, plenty of sandbags, plenty of supplies and a generator this year."
This is not Lashawn Gordon's first time riding out a storm either. While she's stocked up on supplies, Gordon isn't too stressed about Idalia.
"We are out here getting sandbags, trying to put them in front of the garage and the front door," Gordon said. "I grew up in Florida all my life, so you can never be too prepared."
James Smith and his 13-year-old daughter, Izzy, have already secured the majority of their supplies but decided to come back to the sandbag station today to help others.
"It's just important to help people out every now and then," Izzy said. She jokingly added that she had to get volunteer hours done for school, "so it helps in that a little bit."
Smith, who came down to the area for school and stuck around, called Tallahassee a great place to live.
"It takes a village to get through any kind of storm, so any way that we can help our neighbor it's very important," Smith said. "So we we have a strong faith in God and we know that God will help us through this, and we're all here to help others get through it as well."
Breaking down what South Florida can expect
Other states deploying resources to Florida, Georgia
Texas and Pennsylvania are among the states that have sent resources to Florida.
Earlier today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent personnel and resources to the Sunshine State, including search-and-rescue teams.
"America is stronger when we come together in times of crisis," he tweeted.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro tweeted that he sent members of the PA Task Force to Florida and Georgia and is "ready to help any state get back on their feet in response to this dangerous storm."
DeSantis: 'Now is the time' to evacuate as biggest storm in memory lurks for Big Bend
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents in the Big Bend area to leave tonight if they are in low-lying areas and have been asked by local officials to evacuate.
“Now is the time. If you stay hunkered down tonight, it’s going to be too nasty to do it,” DeSantis said at an evening news conference. “If you choose to stay in an evacuation zone, first responders aren’t going to be able to get to you until after the storm has passed.”
DeSantis said conditions can change, but weather models agree that the hurricane will make landfall in the Big Bend area, where Florida’s panhandle meets the state’s peninsula.
“If this storm hits at high tide, storm surge could reach 10-15 feet in some areas of the Big Bend — that is life-threatening storm surge,” DeSantis said, noting that a storm of this significance hasn’t struck the area in more than a century. “We don’t have a historical analog in anyone’s memory. It’s likely to cause a lot of damage.”
DeSantis said resources were staged throughout the state to help restore power and respond to threats to life, including nearly 30,000 workers to help restore power and 1.1 million gallons of fuel.
Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s director of emergency management, said storm surge projections for some areas of the Big Bend are several feet higher than they were for Fort Myers during the lead-up to Hurricane Ian.
“We are going to experience historical flood surge in the Big Bend area,” Guthrie said. “If you’re in that Big Bend area and your emergency workers are calling for evacuation, please do it."
Tampa-area gas stations grappling with potential contamination
Two days after Florida officials warned of “potentially widespread fuel contamination,” nearly 20 Gulf Coast gas stations remain under a stop-sale order as locals brace, and even evacuate, for fast-approaching Hurricane Idalia.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Sunday that it identified a gas and diesel contamination issue caused by human error at the Port of Tampa.
The department warned that fuel purchased from 29 stations between 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday had a “strong likelihood of being contained with diesel fuel.” The stations, supplied by gas company Citgo, were all in the Tampa area.
Officials warned contamination could affect car operability.
Emergency inspections and testing since have led officials to conclude that six of the 29 stations did not receive the contaminated shipment, officials said in a Tuesday update.
Eight other stations were inspected, remediated and cleared by the department for fuel sales in locations including Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres.
Meanwhile, another 17 stations remain “under a stop-sale order pending laboratory confirmation,” the department said.
Other 'I' storms in Florida history
Floridians view Idalia’s name with some concern, as 13 Atlantic storm names beginning with “I” have been retired since 1955, according to the National Weather Service.
That happens when a storm’s death toll or destruction is so severe that using its name again would be insensitive.
Streets flooding in Key West
'Time is of the essence': Idalia to strengthen into Category 3 overnight
Idalia is expected to gain sustained winds of 115 mph and intensify into a Category 3 hurricane overnight, according to an update from National Hurricane Center Deputy Director Jamie Rhome.
The hurricane was beginning to form an eye with sweeping bands as it hit 100 mph this afternoon. Rhome warned that preparations for those in Idalia's path need to be completed by tonight.
"Time is of the essence," Rhome said. "There is no more time to monitor and hope for this system."
Officials warn that Florida's Big Bend will see the most impactful storm surge, of 10 to 15 feet, which Rhome described as "not at all survivable."
With intense storms surge, it doesn't really matter where Idalia makes landfall, Rhome said.
"Even if the system passes well to the west, we're going to have significant flooding in and around the Tampa Bay area," Rhome said.
Gainesville residents new and old plan to ride out Idalia
GAINESVILLE — Residents of Gainesville are stocking up on supplies to hunker down as Idalia passes through, though many don't appear too anxious as the city is further inland.
Elonda Mcnish, a 34-year-old native of the city, said she hopes to have movie night with her two children. She did tie down her outdoor furniture and stocked up on supplies, she said.
“I’m not too concerned because probably by the time it probably hit us, it won’t be as bad," Mcnish said. "It’ll be a lot of trees maybe falling, debris, but I don’t feel like it will tear up Gainesville.”
Danny Gallagher, 31, moved to the area from Memphis, Tennessee, last year and would rather be “overprepared than underprepared." He's hoping that he'll be able to work from home as the storm passes over tomorrow.
"I’m just staying in, hoping everything works out," Gallagher said. "If it gets too severe I live right next to UF so I know they have some more intense emergency situation stuff set up for civilians.”
Originally from Hollywood, Florida, Natasha Kelly decided to stick around Gainesville instead of evacuating. In her 10 years in the area, she's yet to experience any hurricanes that come close to when she lived on the southern end of the state.
But even Kelly is making sure to secure some sandbags and bring in her outdoor items.
“I normally don’t panic at all, this one with the storm surge and everything feels like maybe it’s prudent to block off the doors because I’m on the ground level," Kelly, 34, said.
South Carolina's Charleston County tries to get ahead of storm
Charleston County in South Carolina will close government buildings early tomorrow and will keep them closed also on Thursday as it handles the impact of Hurricane Idalia.
County officials said they will operate as if an emergency or disaster is imminent for the region, which is expected to see heavy rain, potential extreme flooding, rip currents, and gusty winds starting tomorrow afternoon.
The county will also open a shelter for residents to ride out the storm.
A look at Sanibel Island
Ben Sasse, new UF president, volunteers at sandbag station ahead of hurricane
GAINESVILLE — Former Sen. Ben Sasse spent the day volunteering at a sandbag station ahead of his first hurricane as a Florida resident.
Sasse moved to Gainesville from Nebraska six months ago, after he was appointed president of the University of Florida. He was unanimously voted in last year, despite pushback from the student body. He stepped down from his role as a legislator in January.
Sasse praised the emergency operation center at UF and the work the school has done to prepare for the storm.
"We’ve coordinated with the National Weather Service, and our engineering department has some hurricane experts as well," Sasse said. "It’s been real smooth so far with the city and county.”
Hurricane Idalia is now a Category 2 storm
Idalia has strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is currently located about 195 miles southwest of Tampa and is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning along the coast of Florida’s Big Bend region.
The hurricane center said life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected along portions of Florida’s Gulf Coast tonight and into tomorrow.
After making landfall, Idalia is forecast to turn toward the northeast and move along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina late tomorrow and Thursday.
'Life-threatening' storm surge and winds expected in Florida's Big Bend region
The National Weather Service is warning of "life-threatening" storm surge and winds along Florida's Big Bend region, on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.
The NWS's Tallahassee office said people in the area should prepare for "catastrophic wind damage." This includes the potential for winds of 110 mph or higher — equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane or stronger.
“These conditions could lead to structural damage to sturdy buildings, some with complete roof and wall failures, along with complete damage to mobile homes,” the weather service said in an afternoon update.
The Tallahassee office said life-threatening storm surge is possible, with the potential for up to 15 feet of storm surge in coastal parts of Taylor County and Dixie County. In Franklin County, Wakulla County and Jefferson County, 7 to 11 feet of surge has been forecast.
Officials warned of major and extensive flooding, adding that near-shore escape routes and secondary roads may be washed out or severely flooded.
“Heed any flood watches and warnings. Failure to take action will likely result in serious injury or loss of life,” the NWS said.
Fears over Florida immigration law surface as residents prepare for Hurricane Idalia
As Hurricane Idalia intensified this morning, people like Laudi Campos were fielding calls from community groups asking if Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stringent immigration law will limit their ability to help immigrant families prepare for the storm.
Campos, the state director for the Hispanic Federation, one of the nation’s largest Latino advocacy organizations, has been letting community organizations know that identification is “not a requirement.”
In deciding whether to evacuate or hunker down in a safe place, some residents in Volusia County, just outside the Orlando area, are unsure if people who go to shelters will be asked for identification and if the immigration status of those undocumented will be impacted.
“They should go to a shelter if they feel that their life is in danger,” Campos told NBC News.
Biden says areas hit by Idalia will 'have everything they need'
President Joe Biden briefly touched on Hurricane Idalia in comments made from the Oval Office.
He said he spoke to Gov. DeSantis, and voiced concern about the projected storm surge.
“We are there as long as it takes," Biden said. "We will make sure they have everything they need.”
Hospital in Tarpon Springs evacuates patients
AdventHealth North Pinellas, a hospital in Tarpon Springs, Florida, evacuated more than 60 patients to other AdventHealth facilities earlier today as Idalia approaches.
Hospital officials said the transfers were made “out of an abundance of caution,” based on storm surge projections, mandatory evacuation orders across the region and the facility’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Tarpon Springs is located roughly 30 miles northwest or Tampa.
The hospital also rescheduled all elective procedures that were to take place today and tomorrow.
“Our top priority is the well-being of our patients, team members, and the community we serve,” Ryan Quattlebaum, CEO of AdventHealth North Pinellas, said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt appreciation to our exceptional doctors, nurses and clinical team members who have shown unwavering dedication and commitment during this challenging time. Their selflessness to ensure the safety and care of our patients is truly commendable.”
Georgia governor declares state of emergency
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency today ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s arrival. Idalia is expected to make landfall on the west coast of Florida tomorrow morning before moving over southeastern Georgia.
Forty to 50 mph wind gusts and rainfall totals of 4 to 6 inches, with up to 8 inches in some areas, are expected across the region.
Kemp said the state of emergency declaration, which went into effect today and expires at 11:59pm on Friday, will help free up state funds to respond to the storm.
“Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families,” Kemp said in a statement. “We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring.”
Over 500 flights canceled and 1,800 delayed in the U.S. as Hurricane Idalia approaches
Over 500 flights within, into and out of the U.S. have been canceled so far today as Florida braces for Hurricane Idalia's impact.
Of the 507 canceled flights, 379 were arriving or departing from Tampa International Airport, according to the online tracker FlightAware.com.
Exactly 50 flights were cancelled and 126 flights were delayed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as of Tuesday afternoon. At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 25 flights were cancelled and 162 were delayed.
At Miami International Airport, 21 flights were cancelled and 91 delayed.
Orlando International Airport, which had four cancelations and 33 delays, said on social media that it plans to remain open based on Idalia's current forecast. If conditions worsen, the airport may stop commercial operations.
Gov. McMaster declares state of emergency for South Carolina
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency ahead of Idalia's landfall tomorrow. The declaration, issued in the form of an executive order, directs the state's emergency management division to be "prepared to respond" to requests for help.
"Although South Carolina may avoid the worst of Hurricane Idalia’s impacts, this State of Emergency is issued out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we have the necessary resources in place to respond to flooding events and are able to respond quickly if the forecast worsens," said McMaster, a Republican in the post since 2017.
"Now is the time for South Carolinians to begin making proper preparations, and everyone should begin actively monitoring official sources for the most up-to-date information — especially those along our coast and in low-lying areas," the governor added.
FEMA chief warns of high-risk storm surge
WASHINGTON — The storm surge from Idalia will likely be "one of the highest-risk parts" of the hurricane and threatens to wreak havoc along the west coast of Florida, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told reporters at a White House briefing this afternoon.
"Very few people can survive being in the path of major storm surge, and this storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.
Criswell urged locals to evacuate but emphasized they "don't have to evacuate far" if they happen to be in the path of the storm surge.
"It could mean just traveling 10 or 20 miles to get out of the most significant impact areas," Criswell said. "It does not mean having to travel hundreds of miles to get out of the storm’s path."
State of emergency declared in 49 Florida counties
A state of emergency has now been declared in 49 Florida counties, according to an amendment to an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Yesterday, there were 46 counties under a state of emergency. Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties were added to the executive order today.
Other counties under a state of emergency include Franklin, Gulf, Levy, Manatee, Pinellas, Volusia and Wakulla.
Florida requesting major disaster declaration for Hurricane Idalia
Florida is requesting a major disaster declaration from the federal government for Hurricane Idalia, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The request is in process and will be made today, DeSantis said.
“It’s our belief that that will be approved based on our conversations with FEMA," DeSantis said at a news briefing this afternoon.
Florida prepares for Idalia's arrival
In Tampa, many residents seem to have cleared out
TAMPA, Fla. — The residents here who were most concerned about Idalia's wrath seem to have already evacuated. The people who remain today said they believe they can weather the storm.
In interviews at a mobile home area, locals generally seemed confident about the prospect of riding out the storm from inside their trailers, with may offering some variation on a similar theme: Tampa always dodges hurricanes, and they will be fine.
Tornadoes possible as Hurricane Idalia moves over land
Hurricane Idalia could spin up tornadoes as it moves over northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
Officials at the NWS warned people in the affected states to pay close attention to storm updates and forecasts tonight, tomorrow and into Thursday.
Crystal River boat owner ready to lend a hand
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. — Vinny Argiro, a resident of the coastal Florida city of Crystal River, spent the afternoon picking up last-minute storm supplies at a Home Depot store. He owns four boats, including a pair of 24-foot vessels, and he's prepared to climb aboard to help locals after Idalia hits the state.
"I guess if we have to get in one, we'll help people out for a while," Argiro said.
Florida restaurant owner prepares for incoming Hurricane Idalia
Parts of Georgia brace for Idalia's winds and rain
The Atlanta branch of the National Weather Service said today that slight westward shifts in Hurricane Idalia’s path have “increased chances for impacts across inland Georgia, especially for southeast central Georgia.”
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from Dooly County to Emanuel County, while a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from Crisp County to Toombs County. The weather service said tropical-storm-force winds will likely arrive by tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, heavy rain is expected across parts of southeast and east-central Georgia. Flood watches are in effect, as rainfall totals between 4 to 6 inches are forecast in the region for tomorrow.
Idalia to become first major hurricane to move through Apalachee Bay
Idalia will become the first major hurricane to move through Apalachee Bay, according to the National Weather Service field office in Tallahassee.
A major hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher and is a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The bay sits right in Florida's Big Bend in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.
Osceola County will likely be spared worst impacts but officials still urge caution
Officials in Florida’s Osceola County said that while cities in the area are not expected to be in the direct path of Hurricane Idalia, residents should still make preparations for the storm and be alert in case of any deviations in the hurricane’s track.
In a news briefing at the Osceola County Emergency Operations Center, Kissimmee Mayor Olga Gonzalez urged people to make final preparations before weather conditions begin to deteriorate this afternoon.
Locally, the storm is forecast to produce between 2 to 4 inches of rain and sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph, with gusts of up to 45 mph.
Schools in the county are expected to remain open tomorrow, and officials said they are not opening shelters at this time but will monitor the storm’s development and have them on standby.
“I feel confident we are all in a good place to handle whatever comes our way,” Gonzalez said.
Immigrants can request shelter in Florida ahead of Hurricane Idalia
An immigrant rights organization in Florida is reminding residents bracing for Hurricane Idalia that anyone can request shelter, regardless of their immigration status.
The reminder comes weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stringent immigration law went into effect July 1, imposing restrictions and penalties meant to deter the employment of undocumented workers in the state.
"Floridians & immigrants CAN request shelter & aid! Some immigrants even qualify for FEMA assistance," the Florida Immigrant Coalition said in a social media post.
According to the organization, shelters should not ask for IDs. Immigration authorities are also not supposed to operate during a state of emergency.
While undocumented immigrants may not qualify for FEMA assistance, others who have a green card, certain visas or other immigration protections may be able to access some aid, according to the organization.
Florida deploys Starlink internet devices in case of service disruption
Over 200 Starlink internet devices have been deployed across Florida areas that are expected to be impacted by Hurricane Idalia, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Starlink, a satellite internet service run by SpaceX, uses small terminals to provide connectivity. Nearly 250 devices have been deployed so far and over 500 are "staged and ready to go," DeSantis said at a news briefing today.
Florida activates search-and-rescue teams
All eight of Florida's Urban Search and Rescue teams have been activated ahead of Hurricane Idalia's arrival tomorrow.
The teams are made up of close to 600 search-and-rescue personnel, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"We hope to not have to need those folks. We hope nobody ends up in distress once the storm hits," DeSantis said during a news briefing this morning. "But if there is, we're going to have folks that are going to go out there."
The state also staged 420,000 gallons of gasoline in case of fuel interruptions.
‘Wildly hot’ waters in the Gulf of Mexico could fuel Idalia’s rapid intensification
Hurricane Idalia is barreling toward Florida today, moving through the Gulf of Mexico, where experts say exceptionally warm waters could cause the storm to rapidly intensify before it makes landfall.
Early forecasts suggest that Hurricane Idalia could become a major Category 3 storm before reaching Florida.
That boost in intensity could happen quickly, fueled by “wildly hot” conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, said Jill Trepanier, an associate professor and climate scientist at Louisiana State University.
Warmer-than-usual water is a key ingredient in the formation and development of storms. In recent weeks, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico have climbed to record levels. Coastal waters in some parts have hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while much of the Gulf has hovered in the high 80s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Conditions throughout the basin have been roughly 2 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.
“Idalia is kind of passing through the wrong spot, in a manner of speaking — the spot that would make it worse for those in Florida,” Trepanier said.
FAA rerouting planes before Idalia hits Florida
The Federal Aviation Administration is rerouting planes and closing Gulf routes today in anticipation of Idalia slamming into Florida tomorrow morning.
The agency said it might pause flights in and out of Palm Beach International Airport, Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to a social media post.
Parts of the Florida Keys are already feeling the force of Idalia
Idalia is whipping up storm-force wind gusts and rain west of Key West, according to satellite imagery posted online by the National Weather Service.
"#FloridaKeys residents and visitors should use caution today when driving due to windy and squally conditions," the agency said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The Florida Keys are a string of islands off the southern coast of Florida that make up the southernmost tip of the continental United States.
Time-lapse video shows Franklin and Idalia
A satellite time-lapse video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed Hurricane Franklin in the Atlantic and Hurricane Idalia near Cuba yesterday.
Almost two dozen Florida counties issue evacuation orders ahead of Idalia
A total of 23 Florida counties have issued evacuation orders for their coastal cities and low-lying areas ahead of Idalia's expected landfall tomorrow morning.
Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Levy, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Suwanee and Taylor counties have all issued mandatory evacuations. Baker, Gilchrist, Hernando, Jefferson, Madison, Marion, Sumter, Union, Volusia, Wakulla and Sarasota counties have issued voluntary evacuations or advised residents to evacuate.
Click here to stay up to date on evacuations.
Where will Idalia make landfall?
Follow the storm's projected path on the map below. Current forecasts show the Idalia picking up strength today and early tomorrow.
'Wrap up preparations,' forecasters in Tampa Bay warn
Florida residents were warned this morning to "wrap up preparations" as Idalia looms.
The National Weather Service in Tampa Bay warned of the impacts, including storm surge, heavy rains and tropical- and hurricane-force winds, depending on the location. Several tornadoes were also possible, it said in a social media post.
Drivers were warned of potential fuel contamination at gas stations over the weekend
Florida officials warned drivers of potential fuel contamination at a number of gas stations on the Gulf Coast that could affect car operability as drivers prepared to evacuate in some areas for the arrival Idalia.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a news release Sunday that gasoline bought after 10 a.m. Saturday at a number of Citgo-supplied stations was likely to have been contaminated with diesel fuel. The contamination was caused by “human error,” it said.
Citgo found that at least 29 stations were affected, the department said in the news release, which lists the names and locations of affected stations.
"Contaminated gasoline and diesel have the potential of causing engine damage or affecting operability. Impacted stations have been asked to stop selling gas until the contaminated fuel is replaced and tanks are cleaned," the department said. It was not immediately how many people might have been affected by the issue.
Idalia has strengthened, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, forecasters said.
As of 8 a.m. ET, Idalia was about 135 miles west southwest of the Dry Tortugas, an archipelago of islands about 70 miles west of Key West that is home to the Dry Tortugas National Park. The national park announced yesterday it was closing in advance of Idalia's arrival.
That puts the storm, which is moving at 14 mph, about 320 miles south southwest of Tampa.
Damage from Ian a reminder that storms can be 'unpredictable,' Florida senator warns
Florida Sen. Rick Scott has urged residents to prepare for the arrival of Idalia.
"I was in Ft. Myers Beach this morning and the damage from #Ian still here is a reminder that these storms can be unpredictable," the Republican said in a social media post, recalling the deadly Category 5 hurricane that struck Florida last September.
"Now #Idalia is coming to Florida & growing stronger," said Scott, who served two terms as governor of the state. "Make a plan. Get prepared. Stay safe."
In a video accompanying the post, he warned that the situation could become "dangerous," advising residents to take steps to prepare for the hurricane's arrival.
South Carolina residents warned to prepare for Idalia
South Carolina residents have been warned to prepare for Idalia, which "could affect many parts of the state" after making landfall in Florida, authorities said.
"South Carolina could experience four to eight inches of rain, with heavier rainfall amounts possible locally, isolated tornadoes, storm surge flooding and flash flooding" starting tomorrow, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said yesterday. Idalia was still a tropical storm when the news release was issued.
Residents were urged to double-check their emergency plans, including ensuring they have emergency kits ready, gutters and drains cleared to reduce the risk of flooding around the home, outdoor items secured and are staying informed.
Vessel owners warned to secure boats ahead of hurricane
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is warning vessel owners to secure their boats and have a plan in place ahead of Idalia's arrival.
"Preparing for a natural disaster can be stressful, there are so many important things to think of and consider," it said in a news release. "Taking time to prepare well in advance of an impending storm reduces risk to life and property."
The commission has outlined guidance for vessel owners, including to "move your vessel if you can and protect if you can't."
Another hurricane, Franklin, remains 'formidable' Category 4 as it moves away from the U.S.
As Idalia moves toward Florida, Hurricane Franklin is heading away from the United States, but remains a "formidable" Category 4 storm, forecasters said.
Franklin is expected to pass well to the northwest of Bermuda tomorrow, the hurricane center said. As of early this morning, the storm was about 385 miles west southwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.
Still, life-threatening surf and rip currents generated by Franklin have affected Bermuda and the coast of the southeastern U.S., it said. The conditions are expected to spread northward along the East Coast and Atlantic Canada later today into tomorrow, it said.
The storm is expected to steadily weaken over the next several days, according to the hurricane center.
Track Idalia's path
As Idalia barrels toward Florida's Gulf Coast, follow the hurricane's path here:
Idalia strengthens to hurricane and will intensify
Idalia has strengthened into a hurricane and is expected to "rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane" before making landfall in Florida tomorrow.
In a 5 a.m. ET update, the hurricane center said the storm was about 85 miles north of the western tip of Cuba and about 370 miles south southwest of Tampa, Florida.
The system had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, it said.
Hurricane watches and warnings in place
A number of hurricane, storm surge and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast and elsewhere.
A hurricane warning is in effect for parts of Florida from the middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, a hurricane watch is also in place from Englewood to the middle of Longboat Key, according to the hurricane center.
A storm surge warning is in effect for Englewood northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay, with a storm surge watch also in effect for Chokoloskee northward to Englewood, including Charlotte Harbor, as well as from the mouth of the St. Mary’s River to the South Santee River in South Carolina, it said.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Dry Tortugas, an archipelago of islands about 70 miles west of Key West, along with Chokoloskee northward to the middle of Longboat Key; west of Indian Pass to Mexico Beach and from the Sebastien Inlet to Altamaha Sound, Georgia.
Idalia to bring heavy rains and risk of tornadoes
Idalia is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain today into Thursday to parts of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia and the eastern Carolinas, the hurricane center said.
Isolated totals of 12 inches are also possible, primarily near where the system makes landfall in northern Florida, it said.
The rains could bring flash flooding and urban flooding to parts of Florida and southern Georgia today into tomorrow, before spreading into parts of the eastern Carolinas tomorrow into Thursday, it said.
A few tornadoes may also be possible along the west central Florida coast, with the tornado threat expected to spread northward into the Florida Big Bend by tonight.
Swells generated by Idalia are affecting parts of the southern coast of Cuba and eastern Yucatan, the hurricane center said. The swells are expected to spread northward along the eastern Gulf Coast over the next day or two and they could cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions," it said.
Tropical Storm Idalia barrels toward Florida
Tropical Storm Idalia appears on track to develop into a hurricane as it makes it way toward Florida's coast, forecasters said.
As of around 2 a.m. ET, the storm was moving over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, the hurricane center said.
"Rapid strengthening is predicted during the next day or so," it said, with the system forecast to become a hurricane sometime this morning.
Idalia is likely to become a "major hurricane," which is defined as Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, early tomorrow — the same day it is expected to reach the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to the hurricane center.