Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis provided on Wednesday morning the most recent update regarding Hurricane Idalia, which had initially intensified to a Category 4 hurricane but has subsequently been downgraded to a Category 3 storm.
Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida’s west coast as a dangerous Category 4 storm on Wednesday, the US National Hurricane Centre said. It came ashore near Keaton Beach in the Big Bend region with winds close to 205 km/ph.
Florida residents living in vulnerable coastal areas were ordered to pack up and leave their homes as they approached the Gulf of Mexico. Gov. DeSantis discussed the possibilities of storm surges and extreme flooding and urged people to stay inside and not to drive down flooded streets.
"The National Hurricane Centre expects storm surge to reach up to 4.87 metres in some areas of the Big Bend region. That level of storm surge is life-threatening. Do not go outside in the midst of this storm" he warned.
"If it's calm where you are, it may be because you are in the eye of the storm and those conditions will change very, very quickly. So wherever you are, hunker down and don't take anything for granted here".
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend. The state, still dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian, feared disastrous results.
Tolls were waived on highways out of the danger area, shelters were open and hotels prepared to take in evacuees. More than 30,000 utility workers gathered to make repairs as quickly as possible in the hurricane’s wake. About 5,500 National Guard troops were activated.
In Tarpon Springs, a coastal community northwest of Tampa, 60 patients were evacuated from a hospital out of concern that the system could bring a 2.1-metre storm surge.
Idalia was expected to weaken as it moved inland but it was still expected to be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia later Wednesday, the hurricane centre said.