LARGO — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for residents along Florida’s Gulf Coast to be ready for Tropical Storm Idalia in the days before it makes landfall, likely as a major hurricane.
Even areas outside the storm’s likely path could experience catastrophic damage, DeSantis said during a news conference Monday afternoon at Pinellas County’s emergency operations center. Residents need to heed evacuation orders where they’re issued, he said, including in Pinellas County, where 338,000 people have been told to evacuate.
“Even if the storm is off the coast here in the Tampa Bay area, you’re still going to see significant impact from the surge,” he said.
Flanked by state and local officials and lawmakers, DeSantis detailed the state’s preparation ahead of Idalia, which include positioning as many as 40,000 utility repair workers utilities in the wake of the storm, as well as preparing search-and-rescue teams.
Though many models continue to project a landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region, Pinellas County Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins said residents need to take a lesson from Hurricane Ian, which devastated southwest Florida after a late turn last year.
“This is going to be a Category 3, a major storm, right off the coast of Pinellas County,” she said. “We saw what happened last year: It just takes a little shift in that trajectory of that storm and then it could be coming here.”
DeSantis and Perkins both emphasized that evacuees don’t need to go far — they can seek higher ground a few miles away, even within their own counties. The counties will open shelters, but Perkins urged those who can stay with family or friends to do so.
Perkins asked that residents check in on neighbors who may need assistance as part of their hurricane plans. State Attorney General Ashley Moody said she hoped those who have moved to Florida during the state’s recent population boom are also convinced to take the storm seriously.
“Warn your neighbors, your friends who are new to our state about how important it is to evacuate and how dangerous it is not to heed the warnings or prepare,” she said.
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