Florida residents living in vulnerable coastal areas were ordered to pack up and leave Tuesday as Hurricane Idalia gained steam in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as it makes it way towards the state,
Idalia strengthened to a Category 2 system on Tuesday afternoon with winds of 100 mph. The hurricane was projected to come ashore early Wednesday as a Category 3 system with sustained winds of up to 120 mph in the lightly populated Big Bend region, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula.
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at an afternoon news conference on Tuesday, said, “You really gotta go now. Now is the time.”
Earlier, the governor stressed that residents didn’t necessarily need to leave the state, but should “get to higher ground in a safe structure.”
“You can ride the storm out there, then go back to your home,” said DeSantis.
After landing in the Big Bend region, Idalia is forecast to cross the Florida peninsula and then hit southern Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday. Both Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced states of emergency, freeing up state resources and personnel, including hundreds of National Guard troops.