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Florida braces for Idalia’s wrath: Big Bend hunkers down ahead of Category 3 hurricane that will bring 16ft storm surges, 125mph winds and tornados: Tens of thousands left without power

Hurricane Idalia is now an extreme and historic Category 4 storm, officials have declared, with winds of more than 150mph now barreling towards northw

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Hurricane Idalia is now an extreme and historic Category 4 storm, officials have declared, with winds of more than 150mph now barreling towards northwest Florida, threatening ‘catastrophic’ impacts including a dangerous storm surge.

Authorities in the southern US state described Idalia and its potentially deadly storm surge as a once-in-a-lifetime event for Florida’s northwest coast, as they ordered mass evacuations and issued flood alerts ahead of a projected landfall Wednesday morning.

Some 50,000 people in Florida are already without power, according to Power Outage US, while thousands more had their power and water supply cut by authorities as a safety precaution ahead of the brutal storms. 

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Idalia, which earlier raked western Cuba, had strengthened to a Category 3 level as of 2:00 am EST, with maximum sustained winds nearing 130 miles per hour.

But warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico have further turbocharged Idalia, with wind speeds of up to 156 mph, the NHC said.

It warned of a potentially disastrous storm surge inundation of 12 to 16 feet (3.5-5 meters) in some coastal areas.

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. 

‘Very few people can survive being in the path of a major storm surge, and this storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously,’ said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Deanne Criswell.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 46 Florida counties, as about 5,500 National Guard members were mobilized to help with evacuations and building defenses. 

Meanwhile, 30,000 to 40,000 electricity workers were on standby to help restore power quickly after the hurricane passes.

‘You really gotta go now. Now is the time,’ DeSantis told Floridians on Tuesday evening. Earlier, the governor stressed that residents didn’t necessarily need to leave the state, but should ‘get to higher ground in a safe structure.’

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Tampa, Florida, is already overcome with flood water

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Hurricane Idalia is hitting the Big Bend area of Florida

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Hurricane Idalia is hitting the Big Bend area of Florida

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Hurricane Idalia is hitting the Big Bend area of Florida

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida

Vehicles sit in a flooded street caused by Hurricane Idalia passing offshore on August 30, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida

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Torrential rain batters Key West

Hurricane Idalia was seen producing multiple vortices off the coast of Florida yesterday evening

Hurricane Idalia was seen producing multiple vortices off the coast of Florida yesterday evening

Hurricane Idalia was seen producing multiple vortices off the coast of Florida yesterday evening

12-16 feet of storm surge is expected on Wednesday with Idalia set to make landfall

12-16 feet of storm surge is expected on Wednesday with Idalia set to make landfall

12-16 feet of storm surge is expected on Wednesday with Idalia set to make landfall

Storm surge already invading the roads of Cedar Key, Florida well ahead of Hurricane Idalia

Storm surge already invading the roads of Cedar Key, Florida well ahead of Hurricane Idalia

Storm surge already invading the roads of Cedar Key, Florida well ahead of Hurricane Idalia

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Key West was already been inundated amid heavy flooding Tuesday

A video shows the rare St.Elmo fire weather phenomenon on Tuesday in Florida, as the state braces for Idalia

A video shows the rare St.Elmo fire weather phenomenon on Tuesday in Florida, as the state braces for Idalia

A video shows the rare St.Elmo fire weather phenomenon on Tuesday in Florida, as the state braces for Idalia

Over 1,000 people in Sarasota were already without power overnight, and many other areas had the power cut off in advance as a precaution. 

The threat of Idalia is not limited to Florida: the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia also declared states of emergency.

Help was being marshaled from as far afield as California and New York – Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, is sending specialized search-and-rescue teams to Orlando and Atlanta. 

Meanwhile New York’s Task Force 1, comprising of members from the NYPD and fire department, have arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, in preparation for what is likely to be a herculean rescue effort.

Craig Fugate, a former FEMA administrator, said that people who have not already left may find themselves cut off.

‘Search and rescue will be the first priority,’ he told CNN. 

Teams will then work on ‘power restoration, damage assessments and getting people assistance as fast as they can.’ 

On the island of Cedar Key, Commissioner Sue Colson joined other city officials in packing up documents and electronics at City Hall on Tuesday. 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 (4.5 meters).

‘One word: Leave,’ Colson said. ‘It’s not something to discuss.’

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 were gathering to make repairs as quickly as possible in the hurricane’s wake. About 5,500 National Guard troops were activated. 

Palm trees are battered by strong winds in Tampa, Florida, in the early hours of Wednesday

Palm trees are battered by strong winds in Tampa, Florida, in the early hours of Wednesday

Palm trees are battered by strong winds in Tampa, Florida, in the early hours of Wednesday

Heavy rain is seen battering Tampa in the early hours of Wednesday morning

Heavy rain is seen battering Tampa in the early hours of Wednesday morning

Heavy rain is seen battering Tampa in the early hours of Wednesday morning

Flooding begins in St. Pete Beach as Hurricane Idalia barrels towards Florida

Flooding begins in St. Pete Beach as Hurricane Idalia barrels towards Florida

Flooding begins in St. Pete Beach as Hurricane Idalia barrels towards Florida 

Hurricane Idalia is seen barreling towards Tampa and the Big Bend area of Florida

Hurricane Idalia is seen barreling towards Tampa and the Big Bend area of Florida

Hurricane Idalia is seen barreling towards Tampa and the Big Bend area of Florida

Webcams in Cedar Key showed a significant rise in sea level, heavy rain and strong winds as of 1:45am ET.

In Steinhatchee the webcams showed rain, but no winds of yet. 

Video captured from a US military plane evacuating the Tampa area also showed jaw-dropping footage of rare lightening strikes as Hurricane Idalia crept closer.

The Air Force Base said on X (formerly Twitter): ‘During the evacuation, the 50th ARS recorded St. Elmo’s fire, a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created in an atmospheric electric field.’

The storm could be a big blow to a state still dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian, which killed 150 people – more in Florida than any hurricane in almost 90 years.

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.

Evacuation orders were in place in 30 counties across the Big Bend area of Florida

Evacuation orders were in place in 30 counties across the Big Bend area of Florida

Evacuation orders were in place in 30 counties across the Big Bend area of Florida

The National Hurricane Center issued this photo of the storm at midnight on Tuesday

The National Hurricane Center issued this photo of the storm at midnight on Tuesday

The National Hurricane Center issued this photo of the storm at midnight on Tuesday

Heather Greenwood, manager of Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, told CNN that her house was on the highest part of the island, which is expected to be badly affected.

She said she was worried, but wanted to stay to help others.

‘I’m here and I’m available to help them as much as I can,’ she said, adding that she has filled the bathtubs with water, and stocked up on bottled water and food.

‘Being vigilant at this point is the main part,’ Greenwood said.

Power and water was shut off at 8pm on Tuesday as a precaution.

At that time, Idalia was about 155 miles west-southwest of Tampa, the National Hurricane Center said.

It was moving north at 16mph.

A tornado watch is now in effect for more than seven million people across central and western Florida, including Tampa, until 6am ET on Wednesday. 

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.

‘One word: Leave,’ Colson said. ‘It’s not something to discuss.’

More than a dozen state troopers went door to door warning residents that storm surge could rise as high as 15 feet, easily covering a bus in height and rising well into the second floor of a typical house. 

The Red Cross delivers snacks to Lincoln High School where Floridans have taken shelter from Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday

The Red Cross delivers snacks to Lincoln High School where Floridans have taken shelter from Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday

The Red Cross delivers snacks to Lincoln High School where Floridans have taken shelter from Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday

Gas station pumps are wrapped in plastic to prevent damage on Cedar Key in preparation for Hurricane Idalia

Gas station pumps are wrapped in plastic to prevent damage on Cedar Key in preparation for Hurricane Idalia

Gas station pumps are wrapped in plastic to prevent damage on Cedar Key in preparation for Hurricane Idalia

People board up a window in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday in readiness for the storm

People board up a window in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday in readiness for the storm

People board up a window in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday in readiness for the storm

Workers set up a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital

Workers set up a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital

Workers set up a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital

Hurricane warnings were in place in Georgia, too: pictured is Bryan Moore, a resident of Tybee Island, Georgia, boarding up his home

Hurricane warnings were in place in Georgia, too: pictured is Bryan Moore, a resident of Tybee Island, Georgia, boarding up his home

Hurricane warnings were in place in Georgia, too: pictured is Bryan Moore, a resident of Tybee Island, Georgia, boarding up his home

TAMPA: Kiosks at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter are covered in protective wrapping at the Tampa International Airport as all flights were canceled

TAMPA: Kiosks at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter are covered in protective wrapping at the Tampa International Airport as all flights were canceled

TAMPA: Kiosks at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter are covered in protective wrapping at the Tampa International Airport as all flights were canceled

PINELLAS PARK: Landfall is expected in the Big Bend area of Florida near Steinhatchee. as locals panic-buying leaves shelves bare

PINELLAS PARK: Landfall is expected in the Big Bend area of Florida near Steinhatchee. as locals panic-buying leaves shelves bare

PINELLAS PARK: Landfall is expected in the Big Bend area of Florida near Steinhatchee. as locals panic-buying leaves shelves bare

The intensity of Hurricane Idalia is expected to reach 105mph by landfall

The intensity of Hurricane Idalia is expected to reach 105mph by landfall

The intensity of Hurricane Idalia is expected to reach 105mph by landfall

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, repeated the warning on Tuesday afternoon.

‘You really gotta go now. Now is the time,’ he said.

Earlier, the governor stressed that residents did not necessarily need to leave the state, but should ‘get to higher ground in a safe structure.’

He added: ‘You can ride the storm out there, then go back to your home.’

Ashley Moody, the attorney general of Florida, was urging locals to encourage newcomers to heed the warnings.

‘As you know, Florida leads the nation in net migration. Our population is growing exponentially. And so we have a lot of Floridians that have never experienced a storm like this,’ she told Fox News Digital

‘And so I’ve been asking those like me – who I’m a fifth generation Floridian, my family has gone through numerous storms – to advise those that are new to Florida, please don’t take this lightly.

‘Please heed the warnings.’ 

She added: ‘We need to take care of and help those that are new in preparing for what this storm can become.’

Moody said the state will prosecute anyone found looting to the full extent of the law.

‘We are a law and order state. We will not take it lightly if folks are looting,’ she said.

‘We want everyone to be in this together to think of each other to help support one another. 

‘We do need to be aware that in times of emergency, in these challenging times, there are bad actors – from those seeking to make a profit off of essential commodities, to those that are waiting in the aftermath to where property is abandoned, and neither will be tolerated.’

Andy Bair, owner of the Island Hotel on Cedar Key, ignored their warnings.

He said he intended to ‘babysit’ his bed-and-breakfast, which predates the Civil War.

The building has not flooded in the almost 20 years he has owned it, not even when Hurricane Hermine flooded the city in 2016.

‘Being a caretaker of the oldest building in Cedar Key, I just feel kind of like I need to be here,’ said Bair.

‘We’ve proven time and again that we’re not going to wash away. We may be a little uncomfortable for a couple of days, but we’ll be OK eventually.’

He said he was staying for ‘community’.

‘I think we’ll be alright,’ he told CNN.

‘We’ve got a couple of sandbags out there, and the elmer glue between the sandbags.’

Janalea England, who owns a fish market in Steinhatchee, 50 miles north along the coast from Cedar Key, said she was also planning on ignoring the warnings.

‘Here she comes,’ she wrote on Facebook around 5pm on Tuesday.

Janalea England and her husband Garrett England were remaining in Steinhatchee

Payton Wasserman said that she was in Tampa and staying in her apartment

Payton Wasserman said that she was in Tampa and staying in her apartment

Payton Wasserman said that she was in Tampa and staying in her apartment

She said that people had asked her what would be needed for the cleanup, and said that trash bags, bleach, pillows, toiletries and cleaning supplies were needed after Hurricane Hermine, a Category One storm which hit in 2016, causing a six foot storm surge.

Lori Leigh Batts-Bennett left her condo in Steinhatchee for Jacksonville, but said she was worried about those who remained in the town. 

‘Some have that mentality of ‘I’m going to stay here and take care of my own,’ Batts-Bennett told CNN. 

‘Once people wake up they’re going to be paralyzed with what they see.’ 

One woman, Jess, posted a TikTok showing her street, and said many of her neighbors had decided to stay.

Another, Payton Wasserman, said that she was in Tampa and staying in her apartment.

‘Posted up on my balcony with a fat bottle of prosecco and some high hopes,’ she wrote.

Many commentators urged her to leave while she still could.

‘Girl Evac it’s not worth it,’ one wrote.

‘I got stuck in sally 2021 no power or running water or gas for over a week it was scary.’

Another added: ‘Everyone who stayed for Ida in Louisiana 2 years ago will tell you to get out now.

‘With rapid intensification, they’re saying it could be a 4.’

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 were gathering to make repairs as quickly as possible in the hurricane’s wake.

About 5,500 National Guard troops were activated.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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