Hurricane Idalia: Florida residents REFUSE to evacuate Big Bend – with monster storm on verge of category 3 status and HALF of state under tornado watch
Florida officials urged people living in Hurricane Idalia’s path to evacuate while there was still time — but despite warnings of storm surges of up to 15 feet and the storm being upgraded to Category Four, some chose to to stay at home.
Idalia is expected to make landfall as a Category Four storm in the early hours of Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. ET update.
The NHC now predicts sustained winds of up to 110 mph in the sparsely populated Big Bend area, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula.
As of Tuesday 10 p.m. EDT, the storm was only 1 mph away from Category Three, meaning wind gusts exceed 110 mph.
The result could be a major blow to a state still dealing with the ongoing damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian, which killed 150 people — more in Florida than any hurricane in nearly 90 years.
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented occurrence” as no major hurricanes have ever passed through the bay on Big Bend.
Still, some chose to ignore the warnings, which hit 28 counties — despite officials saying they might not be able to save them, and roads could become impassable.
Evacuation orders were in effect in 28 counties in Florida’s Big Bend area
Heather Greenwood, manager of Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, told us CNN that her home was on the highest part of the island, which is expected to be severely affected.
She said she was concerned but wanted to stay and help others.
“I’m here and I’m available to help them as much as I can,” she said, adding that she filled the bathtubs with water and stocked up on bottled water and food.
“Being vigilant on this point is the most important part,” Greenwood said.
Electricity and water supplies were shut off as a precaution at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
At the time, Idalia was about 155 miles west-southwest of Tampa, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It was moving north at a speed of 16 km/h.
A tornado warning is now in effect for more than seven million people in central and western Florida, including Tampa, through 6 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Cedar Key Commissioner Sue Colson worked with other city officials packing documents and electronics at City Hall.
She had a message for the nearly 900 residents who had to evacuate.
“One word: leave,” Colson said. “It’s not something to talk about.”
More than a dozen state troopers went door-to-door, warning residents that the storm surge could reach as high as 15 feet, easily covering a bus in height and reaching well into the second floor of a typical home.
The Red Cross delivers snacks to Lincoln High School, where Florida residents sought shelter from Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday
Gas station pumps are wrapped in plastic to prevent damage to Cedar Key in preparation for Hurricane Idalia
People close a window in Tampa, Florida, ready for the storm on Tuesday
Workers erect a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital
Hurricane warnings were also in effect in Georgia: Pictured is Bryan Moore, a resident of Tybee Island, Georgia, building up his home
TAMPA: Kiosks at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Tampa International Airport are covered in protective wrapping as all flights have been canceled
PINELLAS PARK: Landfall is expected in the Big Bend area of Florida near Steinhatchee. while the locals leave the shelves empty due to panic buying
The intensity of Hurricane Idalia is expected to reach a speed of 170 kilometers per hour at landfall
Florida governor Ron DeSantis reiterated the warning Tuesday afternoon.
“You really have to go now. Now is the time,” he said.
Earlier, the governor stressed that residents would not necessarily have to leave the state, but “go to higher ground in a safe structure.”
He added, “You can brave the storm out there and then go back to your house.”
Andy Bair, owner of the Island Hotel on Cedar Key, ignored Colson and DeSantis’ warning.
He said he planned to babysit his bed-and-breakfast, which predates the Civil War.
The building hasn’t been flooded in nearly 20 years of ownership, even when Hurricane Hermine flooded the city in 2016.
“As the caretaker of the oldest building in Cedar Key, I feel like I have to be here,” said Bair.
“We have proven time and time again that we will not wash away. We may feel a little uncomfortable for a few days, but it will all work out in the end.”
He said he was staying for “community.”
“I think it will be fine,” he told CNN.
“We’ve got some sandbags there, and the elm glue between the sandbags.”
Janalea England, owner of a fish market in Steinhatchee, 50 miles north along the Cedar Key coast, said she also intended to ignore the warnings.
“Here she comes,” she wrote on Facebook on Tuesday around 5 p.m.
Janalea England and her husband Garrett England remained in Steinhatchee
Payton Wasserman said she was in Tampa staying in her apartment
She said people had asked her what was needed for the cleanup, and that garbage bags, bleach, pillows, toiletries and cleaning supplies were needed after Hurricane Hermine, a Category 1 storm that hit in 2016 and had a storm surge of 1.80 meters caused. .
Lori Leigh Batts-Bennett left her apartment in Steinhatchee and went to Jacksonville, but said she was concerned about those left in town.
“Some have the mindset of, ‘I’ll stay here and take care of my own country,'” Batts-Bennett told CNN.
“Once people wake up, they will be paralyzed by what they see.”
A woman, Jess, posted a TikTok showing her street, saying many of her neighbors had decided to stay.
Another, Payton Wasserman, said she was in Tampa and staying in her apartment.
“Posted on my balcony with a fat bottle of prosecco and high hopes,” she wrote.
Many commentators urged her to leave while she still could.
“Girl Evac, it’s not worth it,” one wrote.
“I got stuck in sally 2021 with no power, running water or gas for over a week, it was scary.”
Another added, “Anyone who stayed in Louisiana before Ida two years ago will tell you to leave now.
“With rapid intensification, they say it could be a 4.”
Highways outside the danger zone were free of tolls, shelters were open, and hotels stood ready to take in evacuees.
More than 30,000 utility workers gathered to make repairs as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the hurricane.
About 5,500 National Guard troops were activated.