TAMPA, Fla. – In the last hours to prepare and evacuate Tuesday before the arrival of Hurricane Idalia in Florida, shelves were emptied, hurricane shutters were down and some residents ignored the warnings and hit the beach to experience the first impacts to hit the U.S.
Idalia is forecast to be the first major hurricane to make landfall on the nation this year and bring record storm surge to parts of the Florida Gulf Coast.
Tampa beaches are under a mandatory evacuation order, but surfers paid no attention and hit the rare Gulf of Mexico waves ahead of Hurricane Idalia. Over 40 school districts have closed, and apparently, some kids were taking advantage of it while a FOX 13 reporter discussed the 28 counties with mandatory evacuations and 49 counties already under a state of emergency.
Tampa officials told FOX Weather that they would close the bridges connecting the beaches on the Gulf-facing barrier islands to the mainland when winds hit 40 mph. The National Hurricane Center forecast a 4- to 7-foot storm surge for Tampa Bay. The previous record was 4 feet. Due to the angle of the winds and orientation of the Tampa Bay outlet, the feet of water could be trapped for 12–18 hours.
Cedar Key, an island north of Tampa in the cone of uncertainty, could see up to 15 feet of storm surge. The previous record was 6 feet.
An extraordinarily high tide, thanks to Wednesday's full Moon, will add to the height of the water. Fort Myers Beach, Florida, already saw high tide flooding ahead of the storm. Beach communities and roads were underwater. About 90% of the barrier island was destroyed by Hurricane Ian less than a year ago.
Feeder bands swept across Southwest Florida in the early afternoon with thunderstorms and destructive winds. The NWS issued a Tornado Warning for Collier County and Naples, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon.
Winds tore off parts of a roof in Fort Myers, Florida. The debris turned into a projectile targeting the windows of hotels and condos. The area is under a Tropical Storm Warning and bracing for 39- to 57-mph wind gusts when Idalia makes landfall.
Residents and business owners spent Tuesday boarding up, sandbagging and getting ready for destructive winds and heavy rain inland.
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Hospitals along the Gulf Coast are not taking chances. The Florida National Guard installed a Tiger Dam Flood Barrier around the Manatee Memorial Hospital. The orange barrier is an alternative to sandbags.
Crews set up a fence around Tampa General Hospital to hold back floodwater.
The Tampa International Airport canceled all flights and closed the facility ahead of Idalia. Crews covered electronic equipment in the terminals and tethered baggage carts, jetways and anything loose on the tarmac.
Hurricane Idalia is forecast to make landfall on the Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday.