Florida Rocked as Category 3 Hurricane Idalia Hits Big Bend

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Hurricane Idalia hit Florida as a Category 3 storm, prompting millions to evacuate or shelter in place due to the life-threatening storm surge predicted. The hurricane, which grew in strength over the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, caused destructive winds and torrential rain, with coastal flooding forecasted to reach up to 16 feet deep. The storm hit Keaton Beach, a community of 13,000 people in Taylor County, causing extensive power outages and wind damage.

Hurricane Idalia Hits Florida, Triggers Massive Evacuation

Hurricane Idalia, a high-risk Category 3 storm, hit Florida on Wednesday, causing millions to evacuate or seek shelter from the life-threatening storm surge.

Warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico fueled Idalia, leading to destructive winds and heavy rainfall that were expected to cause coastal flooding along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The hurricane hit Keaton Beach, located 75 miles southeast of Tallahassee, the state capital, at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT).

Social media posts from storm chaser Sidney Grimmett showed the devastation caused by heavy downpours, with trees whipping in the wind and power lines sparking.

Idalia had reached Category 4 intensity overnight but weakened slightly by 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) to Category 3, with maximum winds of 125 mph (201 km/h).

The Big Bend region, featuring a marshy coast and small offshore islands, is less populated than the Tampa-St. Petersburg area to the south.

Most of Florida’s 21 million residents, as well as many in Georgia and South Carolina, were under hurricane warnings and other storm-related advisories. Emergency declarations were issued in all three states.

Florida’s Gulf Coast, southeastern Georgia and parts of North and South Carolina could face heavy rainfall through Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

The NHC also warned of a dangerous wind-driven surf surge expected to flood low-lying areas along the coast, which could reach up to 16 feet (4.9 m) in some areas.

U.S. President Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were in constant contact about storm preparations. Biden was set to discuss the government’s hurricane response efforts later on Wednesday.

Idalia, the fourth major hurricane to hit Florida in the past seven years, was strengthened from a tropical storm to a hurricane on Tuesday.

More than 40 school districts in Florida canceled classes and Tampa International Airport suspended operations. The state has mobilized approximately 5,500 National Guard members, with 30,000 to 40,000 electricity workers on standby. The governor has set aside 1.1 million gallons of gasoline to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies.

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