Tropical Storm Idalia is anticipated to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it enters the Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s emergency chief said on Monday morning as he urged Floridians to prepare for impacts.
“People need to expect, even though they are well off outside of the cone, that we are going to have power outages, we are going to have trees down on power lines,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie told reporters in Tallahassee. “You need to be prepared for that.”
As of Monday morning, the storm was 80 miles off the coast of Cozumel and packing 35-miles per hour winds. It will become a hurricane by late Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m anticipating it is going to be a (Category) 4 and we are preparing as such,” Guthrie said.
The division head said that the state will have “more than enough resources” to respond with the help of the Florida National Guard, state and out-of-state search and rescue teams, linemen, helicopters and boats.
At a news conference in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said there isn’t much that can prevent the storm from strengthening to a major hurricane as it enters the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We can hope for the best, but I think we have to prepare for the worst,” DeSantis said.
The majority of the state’s resources will be staged in Marion County and parts of North Florida to be able to respond with flexibility in case the track of the storm changes, DeSantis said.
DeSantis and Guthrie repeatedly emphasized that people should be making preparations even if they are outside of the cone of uncertainty, which is used by hurricane forecasters to show their best guess at where the center of the storm will go. Areas outside of the cone can expect power outages, downed trees as well as heavy rain and winds.
“As we know, these things can wobble, so Floridians along our Gulf coast should be vigilant even if you are currently outside of the cone,” DeSantis said. “You could see an impact if you are in a place that is outside of the cone.”
Guthrie said his biggest concern is “procrastination” — and that Gulf coast communities are expected to face evacuation orders. Storm surge watches and warnings are already in place for 12 counties along the Gulf coast — from Sarasota County through Gulf County in the Florida Panhandle.
“People need to be heeding those warnings,” Guthrie said. “If you live on the coast, you could have 4 to 7 feet of storm surge and you need to make a plan to get off that barrier island or off that coastal low-lying area today.”
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