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Stories from WMFE and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) which delivers timely public safety information and emergency messaging to 13 public radio stations across the state of Florida.

As Idalia nears, Central Florida leaders urge residents to finish preparations

Image of Idalia captured by the GOES satellite
An image of Hurricanes Idalia and Franklin capture from the space-based GOES satellite.

Idalia is now a Category 1 Hurricane as it makes its way northward through the Gulf of Mexico. According to our partners at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, landfall is expected Wednesday along the Nature Coast and at that point, Idalia could be a major hurricane. But before that happens, and as Idalia tracks northward, it will send storm surge flooding onto the peninsula’s Gulf Coast.

Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Brevard, Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Osceola, Flagler, Lake and Polk counties. Hurricane Warnings have been issued for western Marion and Sumter counties. Tropical storm force winds could reach our area as early as Tuesday evening. As outer bands start to wrap ashore later today these lines of thunderstorms could produce tornadoes and flash flooding.

That means time is running out to make prepartions. Central Florida could start feeling those outer bands as early as Tuesday afternoon. And while some parts of our listening area might not be in that cone, the effects of this storm will be far reaching. The main concern later Tuesday and into Wednesdsay will be damaging wind gusts, isolated tornadoes and flash flooding. So make those preparations today — secure loose items outside, grab sandbags if you’re in a flood-prone area, and prepare to be without power.

School Closures

Marion County public schools are closed Tuesday and Wednesday. In Sumter, schools will close early Tuesday and be closed Wednesday. Flagler and Lake schools are open Tuesday, but closed Wednesday.

Elsewhere in our coverage area, districts are keeping a close eye on the impacts of Idalia and will make a decision at some point today as to whether or not to open tomorrow.

UCF remains open, but will update students and staff later today about potential closings and Bethune-Cookman is pivoting to online classes starting tomorrow.

Be sure to check out WMFE's full list of closures for the latest information.

Evacuations and shelters

In Marion county there is an evacuation recommendation for the western half of the county. Emergency managers are urging some residents west of I-75 to evacuate.

"It's not mandatory, but we're recommending that if you live in maybe a mobile home, an RV, some kind of a substandard type, not really a storm-resistant house, please make arrangements now that we need to move in inland to a relative's friend's house whatever you need to do," said Lt. Paul Bloom, Marion County sheriff's public information officer.

Counties have already begun to open shelters for anyone who needs them. Many of them are pet friendly, and some can accommodate any special needs residents might have.

County officials are saying that people will likely lose power -- so if you are power-dependent, consider going to a shelter. Be sure to check out WMFE's full list of shelters for the latest locations and opening time.


While Hurricane Ian brought widespread flooding last year, this storm is different from Ian in a few ways, one of which is its speed -- it’s moving fast. Where Ian slowly moved over the peninsula, Idalia is forecast to move quickly. Inches of rain totals for Ian were in the double-digits, rain from Idalia will be much less.

Still, there is a risk for flash flooding. County leaders in both Orange and Osceola -- places hard hit by that flooding last year -- say that work has been done to mitigate any potential flooding from this storm.

Counties across Central Florida are offering sandbags for those in flood-prone areas.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."
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