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Idalia makes landfall in Florida as massive Category 3 storm

Residents across Florida are battening down and bracing themselves for fierce winds and a “life-threatening” storm surge after Hurricane Idalia roared ashore as a major Category 3 storm Wednesday morning.

Don’t put your life at risk by doing anything dumb at this point,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “This thing’s powerful. If you’re inside, just hunker down until it gets past you.”

The center of the hurricane moved over Big Bend, near Keaton Beach around 7:45 a.m. with maximum sustained windspeeds of 125 mph. The weather service in Tallahassee dubbed the storm an “unprecedented event,” declaring no major hurricane — Category 3 or higher — has ever passed through the bay adjacent to Big Bend, where the Florida Panhandle connects with the peninsula.

Traveling north-northeast at about 18 mph, the fast-moving storm is forecast to quickly trudge inland, bringing with it significant flooding concerns and a storm surge that could top 15 feet in some areas. There is also a risk of tornadoes triggered by the storm in Georgia as well as North and South Carolina.

As a result, hurricane warnings have been issued for significant swaths of the Atlantic coast. In Florida, dozens of counties are under a state of emergency while evacuations have been ordered in at least 30 counties amid fears the storm will devastate more vulnerable coastal areas.

Idalia briefly strengthened into a mighty Category 4 hurricane before downgrading slightly amid its march across the Gulf of Mexico toward the Sunshine State. Despite its slight weakening, the National Hurricane Center emphasized it is still an “extremely dangerous” weather event in its early-morning update.

“This change in wind speed does not diminish the threat of catastrophic storm surge and damaging winds,” the National Weather Service said around 7 a.m.

With News Wire Services

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