Cubans rushed to evacuate coastal towns, batten down homes and secure fishing boats as Idalia lingered for hours on Monday near the western end of the Caribbean island nation [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]Published On 29 Aug 202329 Aug 2023
Tropical Storm Idalia has become a hurricane, threatening to bring a deadly storm surge and dangerous winds to the Gulf Coast of Florida after lashing Cuba with heavy rain.
Florida residents have been loading up on sandbags and evacuated from homes in low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast to prepare for a storm that the National Hurricane Center projected could have sustained winds of up to 193 kilometres per hour (120 miles per hour).
That would make it a Category 3 hurricane — a potentially big blow to a US state still dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian.
Idalia already brought heavy rains to Cuba, hitting the westernmost part of the island hard.
Authorities in the tobacco-producing province of Pinar del Rio issued a state of alert, and residents fled to friends’ and relatives’ homes. As much as 10cm (four inches) of rain fell in Cuba on Sunday, meteorological stations reported.
Idalia was expected to start affecting Florida with hurricane-force winds as soon as late Tuesday and authorities urged residents to wrap up storm preparations by Tuesday morning at the latest.
It will be the first storm to hit the southeastern US state this hurricane season.
Idalia also is the latest in months of extreme weather that has seen massive wildfires devastate Hawaii, Canada and Greece; the first tropical storm to hit California in 84 years, and devastating flooding in Vermont.
“Just got to prepare for these things, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst and, you know, hunker down, as they say,” Florida resident Derek Hughes as he waited to load up his car with sandbags at a city park in Tampa.
Large parts of the western coast of Florida are at risk of storm surges and floods and evacuation notices have been issued in 21 counties with mandatory orders for some people in eight of those counties.
Many of the notices were for people in low-lying and coastal areas, for those living in structures such as mobile and manufactured homes, recreational vehicles and boats, and for people who would be vulnerable in a power outage.
Decades-old buses missing floorboards and windows carried women and children to higher ground as winds howled, rattling tin roofs and slamming fishing boats tucked in the mangroves in Guanimar, Cuba. [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]School districts across the region cancelled classes starting on Monday afternoon. [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]People on a flooded street pass by an image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto Che Guevara as Storm Idalia makes landfall in Cuba, in Guanimar. [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]Local residents fill sandbags in preparation for Idalia, at a self-serve station at Pride Park in Bradenton, Florida. [Dan Wagner/USA Today/Reuters]Members of the Tampa, Florida, Parks and Recreation Department help residents with sandbags. [Chris O’Meara/AP Photo]
Home Depot employee Sharon Walsh fills a cart with cases of water while moving them to the front door as customers prepare for Idalia in Ocala, Florida. [Doug Engle/USA Today/Reuters]Florida residents along the US state’s Gulf Coast are making preparations for the effects of Idalia. [Chris O’Meara/AP Photo]As Gulf Coast residents packed up their cars or hauled out generators in case of power outages, Florida state officials warned about potential fuel contamination at dozens of petrol stations. [Chris O’Meara/AP Photo]