Hurricane Idalia Barrels Toward Florida Coast As Terrifying Category 3 Storm

Category 3 Hurricane TARGETS Florida - Evacuations UNDERWAY!

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Early on Wednesday, Hurricane Idalia roared ashore in Florida’s Gulf Coast as a devastating Category 3 hurricane, posing a “catastrophic” storm surge threat and bringing with it searing gusts of over 125 mph.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of the Sunshine State issued a warning that the major hurricane was projected to make landfall in the Big Bend region about 8 a.m. while the storm was traveling northeast at 18 mph.

Despite being reduced early on Wednesday to a Category 3, the National Hurricane Center issued a warning: “this change in wind speed does not diminish the threat of catastrophic storm surge and damaging winds.”

Prior to moving northeast, the storm was upgraded over the warm seas of the Gulf of Mexico. It is predicted to make landfall in the Big Bend region, a sparsely populated area, around the area where the peninsula merges into the Panhandle.

Authorities warned there could be a  “catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds” when the storm moves ashore later Wednesday morning.

The storm was deemed “unprecedented” by the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee because no big hurricanes on record have ever traveled through the bay bordering the Big Bend region.

Residents of Taylor and Dixie counties were encouraged to seek shelter right away because winds were gusting over 130 mph and storm surges were predicted to be up to 16 feet high.

“If you end up with storm surge that even approaches that 16 feet, then the chance of surviving that is not great,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday.

According to information from poweroutage.us, more than 60,000 consumers were without electricity throughout the state on Wednesday morning.

49 of the 67 counties in the state, according to DeSantis, are declared emergency areas.

The storm’s effects might strike a serious blow to a state that is still recuperating from Hurricane Ian’s last-minute destruction.

On Tuesday at City Hall on the island of Cedar Key, officials from the city, including Commissioner Sue Colson, began packing away records and equipment.

She also advised the nearly 900 residents who were required to evacuate to do so.

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

DeSantis repeated the warning at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

“You really gotta go now. Now is the time,” he said. Earlier, the governor stressed that residents didn’t necessarily need to leave the state, but should “get to higher ground in a safe structure.”

Not everyone was heeding the warning. Andy Bair, owner of the Island Hotel, said he intended to “baby-sit” his bed-and-breakfast, which predates the Civil War.

Even after Hurricane Hermine swamped the city in 2016, the building has not flooded in the nearly 20 years that he has owned it.

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

Highways out of the danger zone had no tolls, shelters were open, and hotels were ready to house evacuees.

Over 30,000 utility personnel had gathered to perform repairs as soon as possible in the wake of the hurricane.

There were about 5,500 National Guard members on duty.

In order to prepare for the storm on Wednesday, Walt Disney World has announced that its Typhoon Lagoon water park, Winter Summerland miniature golf course, and Fantasia Gardens miniature golf course would all be closed.

60 patients were evacuated from a hospital in Tarpon Springs, a seaside city northwest of Tampa, because to fears that the system may deliver a 7-foot storm surge.

Idalia is expected to touch down in the Big Bend area on Thursday, travel across the Florida peninsula, and then inundate southern Georgia and the Carolinas.

States of emergency were declared by the governors of Georgia and South Carolina, Henry McMaster and Brian Kemp, respectively, freeing up state resources and manpower, including hundreds of National Guard members.

“We’ll be prepared to the best of our abilities,” said Russell Guess, who was topping off the gas tank on his truck in Valdosta, Georgia. His co-workers at Cunningham Tree Service were doing the same. “There will be trees on people’s house, trees across power lines.”

At 2 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Idalia was about 100 miles southwest of Cedar Key and 175 miles south of Tallahassee, the National Hurricane Center said.

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