Four US states have declared states of emergency over a huge hurricane which is set to make landfall this morning.
Hurricane Idalia is predicted to make landfall around 100 miles north of Tampa, Florida as it was upgraded to a historic Category 4 storm on Wednesday.
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have also declared states of emergency, as evacuations and flood alerts have been ordered along the hurricane’s predicted path.
And there will also be closures at Walt Disney World, as both the Typhoon Lagoon and mini-golf courses are set to close all day on Wednesday due to the approaching hurricane.
While the four main theme parks are still set to open as normal, expected conditions in the parks include up to six inches of rain and wind speeds of up to 40mph.
Idalia grew into a Category 2 storm on Tuesday afternoon after strengthening in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
But when it makes landfall it will already be a Category 4 storm, with wind speeds expected to reach 130mph in the Big Bend region, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula.
The US National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia ‘an unprecedented event’ since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend.
On the island of Cedar Key, commissioner Sue Colson joined other city officials in packing up documents and electronics at City Hall on Tuesday.
Webcams in Cedar Key showed a significant rise in sea level, heavy rain and strong winds as of 1.45am ET.
Ms Colson had a simple message for the almost 900 residents who were under mandatory orders to evacuate.
She said: ‘One word: Leave. It’s not something to discuss.’
Tolls have been waived on major roads out of the danger area, shelters were open and hotels prepared to take in evacuees.
State troopers were going door-to-door warning residents that the storm surge could rise as high as 15ft – well into the second floor of a typical home.
Ashley Moody, the attorney general for Florida, warned that any looters would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
She added: ‘We are a law and order state. We will not take it lightly if folks are looting.
‘We want everyone to be in this together to think of each other to help support one another.
‘We do need to be aware that in times of emergency, in these challenging times, there are bad actors – from those seeking to make a profit off of essential commodities, to those that are waiting in the aftermath to where property is abandoned, and neither will be tolerated.’
After landing in the Big Bend region, Idalia is expected to cross the Florida peninsula and reach Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday.
Florida is still dealing with the fallout of Hurricane Ian, which was responsible for almost 150 deaths and 52,000 damaged or destroyed structures last year.
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