If you are told to evacuate, “you must do it immediately” : the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, set the tone, Tuesday, August 29, before the arrival of hurricane Idalia on this state in the south of the United States. Authorities have ordered west coast residents to evacuate as Idalia could become “extremely dangerous” before making landfall on Wednesday, according to US authorities. US President Joe Biden on Monday approved a declaration of a state of emergency and released federal aid.
“Idalia is now a Category 2 hurricane”, on the Saffir-Simpson scale which includes 5 in total, announced the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Coastal flooding phenomena “potentially deadly”, heavy rain and high winds are expected, he warned. The storm also affected part of Cuba from Monday evening.
From a tropical storm, Idalia became a hurricane overnight from Monday to Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center said it expects it “rapidly escalating to an extremely dangerous major hurricane before making landfall on Wednesday”. A “major hurricane” is a classification reserved for those who exceed category 3. They are likely to cause destruction “devastating” And “catastrophic”according to the NHC. “This is going to be a major hurricane”also warned Ron DeSantis, during a press conference.
State of emergency in South Carolina and Georgia
Also urging residents to comply with the instructions, the boss of the federal agency in charge of the response to natural disasters (FEMA), Deanne Criswell, insisted: ‘Very few people can survive being in the way of a major coastal flood, and this storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously’she said.
Twenty-two counties are affected by evacuation requests. Two of the area’s major airports have ceased commercial operations, and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay has sent some of its aircraft to other bases. On the Gulf of Mexico side (to the west), most schools will be closed at least Wednesday and even until Friday for Tallahassee State University.
In Steinhatchee, a small town of a thousand people in northwest Florida, dozens of people were preparing to evacuate. Robert Bryant was gathering things before leaving with his parents, their two cats and their dog for his grandmother’s house in Melrose inland, 150 km to the east. “We are on the water, so we will be the most affected”explained to Agence France-Presse the 18-year-old young man, whose house on stilts is located at the mouth of the Steinhatchee River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
At the time of publication of the last NHC bulletin, Idalia was 310 kilometers southwest of Tampa, Florida with sustained winds of up to 155 km/h. As a precaution, the states of South Carolina and Georgia have also declared a state of emergency, in case the hurricane hits their lands, further north.
In Cuba, 200,000 homes without electricity
On the western tip of Cuba, the heavy rains caused by the passage of Idalia, then still a tropical storm, caused flooding in several localities and deprived of electricity more than 200,000 users, including 90,000 in Havana, announced authorities. “We now have to work urgently” to restore electricity and communications and “harvest to distribute as much food as possible”said President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
” Human warmth “
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The rains, accompanied by gusts of wind exceeding 110 km / h, hit the tobacco production area of the province of Pinar del Rio, in particular that of Vueltabajo where the best tobacco on the island is harvested. In this province, some 60,000 homes may have been damaged. According to the media, in anticipation of the storm, around 8,000 people had left their homes to take refuge in shelters or with relatives.
Idalia must progress in the Gulf of Mexico, where there is currently “a sea heat wave”a hurricane-enhancing factor, the researchers said.
FEMA is already preparing for the aftermath of the storm, including pre-deploying some of its staff, according to the White House. “I spoke to the governor last night, we are in the process of providing anything he might need. We are in constant contact”Joe Biden said on Tuesday about Ron DeSantis, like him running for president in 2024.
At the end of September 2022, Florida was hit by the powerful hurricane Ian, which killed nearly 150 people and caused extensive damage as it passed through the southwest of this state.