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Floridians prepare as Idalia expected to arrive as major hurricane this week

Florida residents loaded up on sandbags and evacuated from homes in low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Idalia intensified Monday and forecasters predicted it would hit in days as a major hurricane with potentially life-threatening storm surges.

States of emergencies declared in dozens of counties as state braces for storm

people filling sandbags and putting them into wheel barrows

Florida residents loaded up on sandbags and evacuated from homes in low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Idalia intensified Monday and forecasters predicted it would hit in days as a major hurricane with potentially life-threatening storm surges.

As the state prepared, Idalia thrashed Cuba with heavy rain, especially in the westernmost part of the island, where the tobacco-producing province of Pinar del Rio is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian almost a year ago.

As much as 10 centimetres of rain fell in Cuba on Sunday, meteorological stations reported. Idalia is expected to start affecting Florida with hurricane-force winds as soon as late Tuesday and arrive on the coast by Wednesday.

Ahead of the storm's arrival, officials declared states of emergencies in dozens of counties and ordered some evacuations in preparation for potentially life-threatening storm surges.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of a "major impact'' to the state, noting that what was originally forecast to be nothing stronger than a tropical storm was now predicted to become a Category 3 hurricane.

WATCH | Idalia drenches Cuba as storm makes its way to Florida later this week:

Idalia soaks battered Cuba with heavy rains

9 hours ago

Duration 0:30

Tropical Storm Idalia thrashed Cuba with punishing rains Sunday, as nearly 10 centimetres fell in some areas and authorities monitored the Cuyaguateje river for possible flooding.

Idalia would be the first storm to hit Florida this hurricane season and a potentially big blow to the state, which is also dealing with lingering damage from Hurricane Ian.

Idalia is also the latest in a summer of natural disasters, including wildfires in Hawaii, Canada and Greece; the first tropical storm to hit California in 84 years, and devastating flooding in Vermont.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, a broad swath that stretches across the northern half of the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast. The state has mobilized 1,100 National Guard members, who have 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft at their disposal for rescue and recovery efforts.

Tampa International Airport and St.Pete-Clearwater International Airport said they would close on Tuesday, and the Sunrail commuter rail service in Orlando was being suspended.

Large parts of the western coast of Florida are at risk of storm surges and floods anytime a storm of this magnitude approaches.

"Now, the property — we can rebuild someone's home,'' DeSantis said during a news conference Monday. "You can't unring the bell, though, if somebody stays in harm's way and does battle with Mother Nature. This is not something that you want to do battle with.''

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning Monday from Longboat Key in the Sarasota area to the Holocene River, up past Tampa Bay. Pasco County, located north of Tampa, ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents in low-lying areas, areas prone to flooding and residents living in manufactured or mobile homes. More evacuation orders were expected in other areas.

WATCH | Filling up at a sandbag station ahead of Idalia's landfall in Florida:

Florida residents brace for tropical storm Idalia

10 hours ago

Duration 0:54

People in Florida are queueing up at sandbag filling stations to help prepare for tropical storm Idalia, which is expected to grow into a hurricane.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to DeSantis on Monday morning, telling the Florida governor that he had approved an emergency declaration for the state, the White House said. DeSantis is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Tampa resident Grace Cruz, who has lived in the state for more than 40 years, put away patio furniture, filled her car up with gas and loaded up on sandbags. She worried about the tens of thousands of new residents to Florida who had never before experienced a hurricane, and she had some advice for them.

"If you're planning to get away, you start ahead of time because of the traffic," Cruz said. "No kidding. It's horrible."

More storms expected for East Coast

At 8 p.m. ET Monday, Tropical Storm Idalia was about 30 kilometres off the western tip of Cuba, with maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h, the hurricane centre said. Idalia was moving north at 13 km/h. On Tuesday, it was expected to turn northeast at a faster pace, reaching Florida's western coast as a "dangerous major hurricane" on Wednesday.

After moving across Florida, Idalia is forecast to blow through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

So far this year, the U.S. East Coast has been spared from cyclones. But in the West, tropical storm Hilary caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures earlier this month in Mexico, California, Nevada and points to the north.

A man wearing a blue T-shirt and backwards hat throws sandbags into the bed of a dark blue pickup truck.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.

Meanwhile, Franklin became the first major hurricane of the season, strengthening into a Category 4 storm on Monday as it charged through open waters off the U.S. East Coast.

A tropical storm watch was issued for Bermuda.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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