Tropical Storm Idalia has intensified and is expected to become a major hurricane when it reaches Florida’s Gulf Coast later this week, the National Hurricane Center said Monday, with officials declaring a state of emergency in dozens of counties and ordering some personnel Evacuate and be prepared for potentially life-threatening situations. storm surge.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of “significant impacts” on the state, noting that it was initially expected to be no stronger than a tropical storm but is now expected to become a Category 3 hurricane.
Idalia will be the first storm to hit Florida this hurricane season and could deal a major blow to the state, which is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ian nearly a year ago.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 46 counties that stretch across the northern half of the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic coast. The state has mobilized 1,100 National Guard members, 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft for rescue and recovery efforts.
Whenever a storm of this magnitude arrives, much of Florida’s west coast is at risk of storm surge and flooding.
“Right now, we can rebuild someone’s house,” DeSantis said at a news conference Monday. “But you can’t sound the alarm if someone is in danger and fighting Mother Nature. That’s not something you want to fight.”
The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning on Monday for a range from Longboat Key in the Sarasota area to the Holocene River in Tampa Bay. Pasco County, north of Tampa, ordered mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas, areas prone to flooding and residents living in mobile homes or mobile homes. Additional evacuation orders are expected for other areas.
President Joe Biden spoke with DeSantis on Monday morning and told Florida’s governor that he had approved the state’s emergency declaration, the White House said. DeSantis is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The storm was about 80 miles (125 kilometers) from the tip of Cuba at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph), the hurricane center said. Adalia was heading north at 8 mph (13 km/h). On Tuesday, it was expected to turn more rapidly to the northeast and reach Florida’s west coast on Wednesday as a dangerously large hurricane.
The U.S. East Coast has not been hit by a hurricane so far this year. But in the west, Tropical Storm Hillary caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures in Mexico, California, Nevada and northern regions earlier this month.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season will be busier than initially predicted, in part due to extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs until November 30th, with August and September usually being the peak months.
Mexico’s National Weather Service warned on Sunday of heavy rain and winds of up to 55 mph (89 kph) on the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm could cause huge waves and flooding in southern Mexico, mainly around the coastal cities of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, where the resort city of Cancun is located, the report said. Local governments are preparing shelters.
Meanwhile, Franklin became the first major hurricane of the season, intensifying into a Category 4 storm Monday as it hurtled through open water off the U.S. East Coast.
A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Bermuda.
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; and Mike Schneider in St. Louis, Missouri; contributed to this report.