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Hurricane Idalia Gains Strength, Reaches Category 2 Status with 100 mph Winds

CEDAR KEY, Fla. — Hurricane Idalia has become a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph as it heads towards Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center expects Idalia to become a major hurricane on Tuesday night before it reaches the Big Bend area and maintains hurricane strength as it moves across southern Georgia on Wednesday.

Residents in vulnerable areas along the Gulf Coast have been urged to evacuate due to the potential for high winds and flooding. This hurricane poses a significant threat to a state still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Ian.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has described Idalia as an “unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes have ever passed through the bay near the Big Bend region.

As of Tuesday evening, Idalia is approximately 195 miles southwest of Tampa and moving north at 16 mph.

In anticipation of the storm, mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the island of Cedar Key. Residents have been warned that storm surge could reach heights of up to 15 feet.

Tolls on highways out of the affected areas have been waived, shelters are open, and hotels are ready to accommodate evacuees. Utility workers and National Guard troops are also prepared to make repairs and assist in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Despite the warnings, not all residents are evacuating. Some, like Andy Bair, the owner of the Island Hotel in Cedar Key, have chosen to remain and “babysit” their properties. Bair believes that Cedar Key has a history of withstanding hurricanes and will be okay.

In addition to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have also declared states of emergency in preparation for Idalia’s impact. The storm is expected to pass through the Big Bend region, cross the Florida peninsula, and then bring heavy rain to southern Georgia and the Carolinas.

Cuba is already experiencing heavy rain from Idalia, particularly in the western province of Pinar del Rio, which is still recovering from Hurricane Ian.

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