National Hurricane Center rainfall projections for Tropical Storm Idalia as of Sunday afternoon. Source: NHC
Gov. Ron DeSantis paused his presidential campaign Sunday, returning to Tallahassee to oversee planning for Tropical Storm Idalia, which forecasters expect to make landfall near the Big Bend area as a hurricane sometime Tuesday.
“We’re locked down on this. We’re gonna get the job done. This is important, so people can rest assured,” DeSantis told reporters during a briefing at the state Emergency Management Center.
He and state Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie began conferring about a potential storm strike last week, the governor added.
“I am here. I am here,” DeSantis said.
The Emergency Center was staffed Sunday and the plan was to begin working around the clock as of 7 a.m. Monday, DeSantis said.
The governor urged Floridians not to be misled by the “cone” projected on forecast maps, which represent estimates of a storm’s path that can change with new data. Dangerous winds, rain, and storm surge can extend hundreds of miles outside these cones.
Expect to lose power, he said, especially if you live in areas like Tallahassee, which are heavily forested, as winds knock trees and branches into power lines, DeSantis said. Electric line workers and other responders were being staged in Marion County and the Panhandle.
Although the latest forecasts called for landfall around Taylor and Dixie counties, DeSantis reminded people that Hurricane Ian last year had been projected to hit the same area as Idalia is now and even Tampa Bay but made landfall hundreds of miles south in Lee County.
One major potential complication is that Citgo gas stations from Fort Myers to Brooksville may have received gasoline contaminated with diesel fuel, which will wreck a gas engine; see this Tampa Bay Times report. People who fear they’ve been affected can call 1-800-HELP-FLA or visit fdacs.gov.
Guthrie urged people to have an emergency plan, including a rendezvous spot for family members, evacuation routes, and storm kits including food, water, and medicine. There’s a tax holiday on now for storm supplies. The state’s emergency website is Updates | Florida Disaster.
“We are going to see 90 m.p.h. winds with this storm, perhaps even higher,” Guthrie said.
County property appraiser websites and emergency agencies have information about flood evacuation zones, he added.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 33 counties on Saturday. That freed the National Guard to mobilize 1,100 troops and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement 25 officers plus mobile command units. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has high-water vehicles ready to rescue flood victims, plus shallow-draft boats and ATVs and airboats.
“FWC Special Operations Group teams will serve as reconnaissance units for the state EOC and report back on damage after the storm has made landfall. FWC Aviation Section has been placed on standby and has readied all appropriate aircraft for potential deployment for EOC aerial assistance, reconnaissance, and post-storm damage assessments when needed,” the Division of Emergency Management said in a press release.
The Florida Highway Patrol has 300 troopers on standby and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been monitoring beach conditions.
The Florida Department of Commerce has activated the Florida Private Sector Hotline (850-815-4925) Inquiries may also be emailed to [email protected]. FL511.com or download the app—on both Apple and Android devices.
The Florida Department of Transportation is providing travel alerts at FL511.com.There’s also an app for that for Apple and Android phones.
“The Howard Frankland Bridge project in Tampa is securing barges in the area. All other active construction projects are on alert and standing ready to implement any necessary actions related to storm preparations,” the DEM news release says.
“Port Tampa Bay, Seaport Manatee, and Port of St. Petersburg have begun securing port infrastructure and clearing waterways,” it adds.
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