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Experts warn Idalia's winds & rain are here

The #GOESEast view of Hurricanes #Idalia and #Franklin spinning in such close proximity today is truly remarkable.
NOAA Satellites
The #GOESEast view of Hurricanes #Idalia and #Franklin spinning in such close proximity today is truly remarkable.

Idalia, which strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane earlier today. The storm is expected to intensify to Category 3 strength when it makes landfall tomorrow.

What we know about Idalia

Idalia is expected to become a Major Storm, which means the National Hurricane Center is predicting maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. The storm is predicted to make landfall north of Central Florida, but because of its size and strength Governor Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency to include Central Florida counties. That includes Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia.

The storm is fast. At the time of NHC’s last update, Idalia’s effects could already be seen in the Florida Keys. DeSantis has urged residents to finish their preparations as soon as possible. The National Weather Service predicts we could start seeing effects from the storm early this evening before it makes landfall tomorrow morning.

What effect Central Florida counties might see?

Sumter and Western Marion counties are under a Hurricane Warning. The rest of Central Florida is under a tropical storm warning. What that means is we’re likely to get sustained winds above 40 mph, and wind gusts at 55 mph. Idalia’s tropical storm gusts can be felt 160 miles away from its center. Also, the NWS says conditions in Central Florida are favorable for tornado formation.

If your area comes under a tornado warning, officials advise you to take shelter, said Kevin Guthrie, the emergency management director of Florida.

"Please get yourself to an interior room free of Windows, and put a mattress over your head. Even if you have some type of bicycle helmet or something like that you need to protect your head from tornadic activity,"

Part of the reason why Central Florida is under a tornado threat is because the region may fall on Idalia’s dirty side of the storm, meaning the side where the most severe weather occurs.

What about shelters?

There are 31 shelters in Central Florida, as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. Orangeopened eight shelters in the area, two special needs and two general population shelters; all four of those are pet-friendly. The other four are homeless shelters.

Other counties with open shelters include:

Is Central Florida ready for another hurricane?

It’s been almost a year since Hurricane Ian brought torrential rain and flood waters to Central Florida.

Counties like Osceola say that they are. Last year, Ian brought 19 inches of rain to the area, flooding out major areas like Lake Toho.

Sheriff Marcos Lopez said Osceola learned a lot from last year.

"We actually acquired two high water rescue vehicles — five-ton type vehicles that the National Guard uses," he said. "And we have them ready to go in case we do have any type of flooding issues in the area." 

Osceola has also stated that it has pumps ready to be used should they see flood waters again.

What about schools? Have districts updated what days they’ll be closed?

The latest we have for closures on Wednesday include Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia County Schools. Polk and Sumter County Schools announced they’ll also be closed Thursday.

As for colleges and universities, most are closed tomorrow -- we’ve got all the school closures listed on our website.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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