Hurricane Idalia intensifies into Category 2 on way to Florida: Live updates


0m ago / 8:11 PM EDT

Idalia ‘likely to become a major hurricane soon’

Hurricane Idalia is continuing to strengthen and is on path to become a Category 3 when it makes landfall.

At 8 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is “likely to become a major hurricane soon.”

3m ago / 8:09 PM EDT

Storm category classifications and what they mean

Hurricane Idalia is currently a Category 2 storm but is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 before it makes landfall tomorrow morning. What do these categories mean?

Hurricanes are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: 1 through 5. They are based on the hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed, which leads to different levels of damage.

The National Weather Service classifies storms this way:

Category 1: Wind speeds of 74 to 95 mph producing some damage

Category 2: Wind speeds of 96 to 110 mph producing extensive damage

Category 3: Wind speeds of 111-129 mph producing devastating damage

Category 4: Wind speeds of 130-156 mph producing catastrophic damage

Category 5: Wind speeds of 157 mph or higher producing catastrophic damage

For more information, click here.

6m ago / 8:05 PM EDT

On Cedar Key, staying put not an option, official says

On the island of Cedar Key, Commissioner Sue Colson joined other city officials in packing up documents and electronics at City Hall. S

he had a message for the almost 900 residents who were under mandatory orders to evacuate. More than a dozen state troopers went door to door warning residents that storm surge could rise as high as 15 feet.

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

10m ago / 8:01 PM EDT

About 200 miles of Florida coastline are at risk

Hurricane Idalia could cause record-breaking storm surge and widespread wind damage, according to the NBC News Climate Unit. 

The hurricane is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning just south of Perry, Florida, between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. As the hurricane hits the ground, storm surge damage is expected to stretch for about 200 miles along Florida’s west coast, past the Tampa Bay area. Florida’s Big Bend area could see between 10 and 15 feet of storm surge. 

Near the eye of the storm, the climate unit is forecasting tornado-like damage about 20-30 miles inland. 

Flash flooding and torrential rain are likely between Tallahassee and Lake City. 

The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee said “locations may be uninhabitable for several weeks or months” because of wind damage. Storm surge could prevent access, too. 

Central and North Florida could see tornadoes all day, according to the climate unit. Coastal flooding is expected during evening high tide between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, as the storm weakens and progresses north. 

17m ago / 7:54 PM EDT

In Tallahassee, folks are hoping for the best while prepping for the worst

Coming off a hot summer and a year out from the devastation of Hurricane Ian, people in Tallahassee are cautiously optimistic about staying put and riding out the storm.

Ben Ivey took on the task of getting 20 sandbags for his home, which he knows from experience can flood if water doesn’t work its way down the hill fast enough. He and his wife, who gave birth to their second child in July, decided against evacuating because they thought Idalia would hit Tampa instead.

“I still think this is going to turn; we just don’t know how far yet,” Ivey said. “I don’t think it’s gonna be the size of, you know, Ian, from what we can tell but wherever it is, it’s still going to be pretty bad.”

And if Idalia strengthens into a Category 4, Ivey said to ask his wife what to do.

“I’m gonna do whatever my wife tells me,” he said. “She says ‘Leave,’ leave. But we definitely have a safe place to stay, plenty of sandbags, plenty of supplies and a generator this year.”

This is not Lashawn Gordon’s first time riding out a storm either. While she’s stocked up on supplies, Gordon isn’t too stressed about Idalia.

“We are out here getting sandbags, trying to put them in front of the garage and the front door,” Gordon said. “I grew up in Florida all my life, so you can never be too prepared.”

James Smith and his 13-year-old daughter, Izzy, have already secured the majority of their supplies but decided to come back to the sandbag station today to help others.

“It’s just important to help people out every now and then,” Izzy said. She jokingly added that she had to get volunteer hours done for school, “so it helps in that a little bit.”

Smith, who came down to the area for school and stuck around, called Tallahassee a great place to live.

“It takes a village to get through any kind of storm, so any way that we can help our neighbor it’s very important,” Smith said. “So we we have a strong faith in God and we know that God will help us through this, and we’re all here to help others get through it as well.”

A Tallahassee resident stocks up on supplies Tuesday.Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat / USA Today Network

1h ago / 7:07 PM EDT

Breaking down what South Florida can expect

1h ago / 7:06 PM EDT

Other states deploying resources to Florida, Georgia

Texas and Pennsylvania are among the states that have sent resources to Florida.

Earlier today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent personnel and resources to the Sunshine State, including search-and-rescue teams.

“America is stronger when we come together in times of crisis,” he tweeted.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro tweeted that he sent members of the PA Task Force to Florida and Georgia and is “ready to help any state get back on their feet in response to this dangerous storm.”

1h ago / 6:56 PM EDT

DeSantis: ‘Now is the time’ to evacuate as biggest storm in memory lurks for Big Bend

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents in the Big Bend area to leave tonight if they are in low-lying areas and have been asked by local officials to evacuate. 

“Now is the time. If you stay hunkered down tonight, it’s going to be too nasty to do it,” DeSantis said at an evening news conference. “If you choose to stay in an evacuation zone, first responders aren’t going to be able to get to you until after the storm has passed.”

DeSantis said conditions can change, but weather models agree that the hurricane will make landfall in the Big Bend area, where Florida’s panhandle meets the state’s peninsula. 

“If this storm hits at high tide, storm surge could reach 10-15 feet in some areas of the Big Bend — that is life-threatening storm surge,” DeSantis said, noting that a storm of this significance hasn’t struck the area in more than a century. “We don’t have a historical analog in anyone’s memory. It’s likely to cause a lot of damage.” 

DeSantis said resources were staged throughout the state to help restore power and respond to threats to life, including nearly 30,000 workers to help restore power and 1.1 million gallons of fuel. 

Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s director of emergency management, said storm surge projections for some areas of the Big Bend are several feet higher than they were for Fort Myers during the lead-up to Hurricane Ian. 

Tallahassee residents fill sandbags Tuesday as they prepare for the worst with Hurricane Idalia heading towards the Big Bend area.Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat / USA Today Network

“We are going to experience historical flood surge in the Big Bend area,” Guthrie said. “If you’re in that Big Bend area and your emergency workers are calling for evacuation, please do it.”

2h ago / 6:39 PM EDT

2h ago / 6:28 PM EDT

Tampa-area gas stations grappling with potential contamination

Two days after Florida officials warned of “potentially widespread fuel contamination,” nearly 20 Gulf Coast gas stations remain under a stop-sale order as locals brace, and even evacuate, for fast-approaching Hurricane Idalia. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Sunday that it identified a gas and diesel contamination issue caused by human error at the Port of Tampa.

The department warned that fuel purchased from 29 stations between 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday had a “strong likelihood of being contained with diesel fuel.” The stations, supplied by gas company Citgo, were all in the Tampa area.

Officials warned contamination could affect car operability.

Emergency inspections and testing since have led officials to conclude that six of the 29 stations did not receive the contaminated shipment, officials said in a Tuesday update.

Eight other stations were inspected, remediated and cleared by the department for fuel sales in locations including Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres. 

Meanwhile, another 17 stations remain “under a stop-sale order pending laboratory confirmation,” the department said.

Read the full story here.

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