Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency Saturday ahead of a pressure system expected to strengthen into a tropical storm or hurricane next week.
The state of emergency covers 33 Florida counties including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee. It warns heavy rain, strong winds and tornadoes could affect the state’s Gulf coast and panhandle.
“I signed an Executive Order issuing a state of emergency out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the Florida Division of Emergency Management can begin staging resources and Floridians have plenty of time to prepare their families for a storm next week,” DeSantis said in a press release.
The governor advises Floridians to prepare over the weekend. Florida’s sales tax holiday on hurricane supplies began Saturday and continues until Sept. 8.
The pressure system off the Yucatán Peninsula is moving “very slowly” into the Gulf of Mexico and could strengthen into a tropical depression soon, the National Hurricane Center said in its Saturday afternoon update.
While wind shear from the north is expected to limit strengthening, meteorologists are concerned record-hot gulf waters could counter that at a time when hurricane season is nearing its peak. Floridians should stay updated on storm developments, the hurricane center said.
The Fort Myers area is still reeling after being hit last year by Hurricane Ian, which devastated much of the area’s coastline after making landfall as nearly a Category 5 storm. The state of emergency said it aims to help put resources in place for communities still recovering from Ian and Hurricane Nicole, which hit Florida’s Atlantic Coast last year.