DeSantis urges Floridians to heed Hurricane Idalia evacuation ordersAugust 29, 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said Florida emergency officials were making final preparations ahead of Hurricane Idalia, as cities and counties ordered more than 1.5 million people to leave their homes ahead of the strengthening storm.
The National Hurricane Center issued an advisory warning that Idalia strengthened into a hurricane early Tuesday morning and to expect it to intensity into an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” before making landfall Wednesday. The storm is predicted to make landfall in the Big Bend region.
DeSantis told reporters during a press conference in Tallahassee that the storm will bring potentially deadly coastal flooding and high winds that will leave tens of thousands of people without power.
“You run from the water and you hide from the wind,” DeSantis said. “If you are given those orders, please heed those orders.”
Already, dozens of school districts have canceled classes, Tampa International Airport has closed and state government offices in Tallahassee will not be open, though staffers will be working from home as needed.
Local officials in 22 counties ordered upward of 1.5 million people in low-lying and flood prone areas or who live in mobile homes to evacuate. DeSantis said there was a chance that winds could steer Idalia further west, potentially impacting Tallahassee and the Capitol.
The Florida region in the path of Idalia has not been hit by a hurricane since the late 1800s. DeSantis said residents living in those areas should not underestimate the danger of the storm.
“Those coastal areas there have not necessarily been through this before,” DeSantis said. “Being safe is the appropriate thing to do, and erring on the side of caution is the appropriate thing to do.”
“Everyone just remain vigilant,” DeSantis said. “Continue to watch and listen to the local orders that you receive from your local emergency management personnel.”
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane warning that stretches between Franklin and Sarasota counties. A storm surge warning predicts the Big Bend area to see a storm surge that could push up to 12 feet of Gulf water onto the coast. The state has deployed eight search and rescue teams to scour the coast for residents. DeSantis also called in 5,500 members of the state National Guard to assist with rescue operations along with police officers from several state agencies.
Idalia is also predicted to affect some of the poorest counties in the state, and recovery costs for things like debris removal are expected to easily surpass local budgets. The Federal Emergency Management Agency usually only reimburses storm recovery costs paid by states, counties and municipalities, but Kevin Guthrie, executive director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said FEMA has agreed to cover the most critical costs up front.
“They know that we’re going to be asking for several expedited projects from the state level we’re going to encourage counties to do the same,” Guthrie said.
The state Division of Emergency Management and FEMA are finalizing the amount of federal money that will go into storm recovery costs, Guthrie said. Usually FEMA covers 75 percent of the cost, and the remaining 25 percent is shared between state and local government.