NEW DELHI: Hurricane Idalia remains on course for Florida, as heavy rainfall blankets the state’s western coast. The storm, propelled by wind speeds of 110 mph (177 kph), is poised to escalate into a significant hurricane prior to its arrival along Florida’s coastline — commonly referred to as the Big Bend.
Having evolved into a Category 2 system on Tuesday afternoon, Idalia surged to Category 4 intensity in the early hours of Wednesday, as it surged towards northwestern Florida with winds reaching a minimum of 130 mph (209 kph) in the sparsely inhabited Big Bend region.
This has the potential to deal a significant blow to a state still grappling with residual effects from last year’s Hurricane Ian.
In the meantime, the storm’s advancement has triggered authorities to release tornado warnings. With more than 20 counties in central and western Florida issuing evacuation orders, including parts of Tampa, Florida’s third-largest city, schoolchildren sought refuge in hallways.
Here is the current status:
- Hurricane Idalia attained Category 4 potency before reaching the sparsely populated Big Bend on Wednesday morning.
- As Hurricane Idalia gained momentum in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida residents in vulnerable coastal zones were instructed to evacuate.
- Advisories encompassing at least 21 million Florida residents, as well as those in the southern regions of Georgia and South Carolina, have been issued.
- Authorities are cautioning about an impending “catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds” upon the storm’s landfall.
- With over 5,500 National Guard members mobilized and over 580 rescue personnel stationed, preparations are underway to manage the storm and minimize potential casualties.
- In response to the hurricane alert, Tampa International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport have canceled numerous flights.
- As part of safety measures, educational institutions such as schools, state colleges, and universities will remain closed for the next 48 hours.
- US President Joe Biden has conveyed concern about the imminent storm surge, assuring that federal agencies are closely monitoring Idalia’s progression “hour by hour.”
- The hurricane could result in flooding across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
- To forewarn residents, over a dozen state troopers have been going door to door, cautioning that the storm surge might rise as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters).
- After affecting Florida, Hurricane Idalia is projected to proceed towards Georgia before dissipating into the Atlantic.
- Previously, the storm inundated various communities in Cuba, including parts of the capital Havana, leading to a power outage.
- Although no casualties were reported in Cuba due to the storm, it impacted more than 200,000 people on the island.
- The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has labeled Idalia as an “unprecedented event” due to the absence of any major hurricanes on record that have traversed the bay adjoining the Big Bend.
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