1 of 4 | Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis provides an update Monday as he ordered evacuations for 21 counties in preparation for Tropical Storm Idalia, which is expected to hit Florida as a "major hurricane" by Wednesday. Photo courtesy of flgov
Aug. 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed a state of emergency order for Florida, as Gov. Ron DeSantis issued evacuation orders for 21 counties Monday in preparation for Tropical Storm Idalia, which is expected to hit the western side of the state as a hurricane Wednesday.
"Evacuation orders have been issued for 21 counties," DeSantis wrote Monday evening in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. "If you are under an evacuation order, take it seriously and get to a safer area. Travel tens of miles, not hundreds of miles, to safety."
Biden spoke with DeSantis on Monday to tell him the federal government would support the state as it prepares for the storm and in its aftermath.
"This morning, I spoke with Gov. DeSantis to inform him that we've approved the Emergency Declaration for Florida as they prepare for Hurricane Idalia, and [Federal Emergency Management Agency] has pre-deployed personnel and assets," Biden wrote Monday in a post on X.
"Florida has my full support as they prepare for Idalia and its aftermath," Biden added.
The emergency order allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to provide assistance and to coordinate relief.
As the Biden administration continues to work with Hawaii, following deadly wildfires earlier this month, the federal government urged Florida residents to be prepared.
"Those living in the path of Tropical Storm Idalia should take steps now to prepare for the impacts of this storm, which is forecast to become a major hurricane before it reaches the Gulf Coast of Florida," FEMA wrote in a statement Monday.
The storm is about 10 miles northwest off the western tip of Cuba with sustained winds of 70 mph and moving north at about 8 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 10 p.m. advisory. While Idalia's winds remain at tropical storm strength, they are expected to nearly double to 115 mph in the next 48 hours.
Earlier Monday, DeSantis added 13 counties to Florida's state of emergency list. Forty-three counties are now under a state of emergency as it is expected to hit somewhere between the capital Tallahassee in the Panhandle region to the Tampa Bay area on the west coast.
"Today, I had a call with county Emergency Response Teams about their emergency plans for Idalia," DeSantis wrote Monday in a post on X.
"Pretty much anybody on the west coast of Florida, you could see major, major impacts," DeSantis said, adding that all barrier islands in the possible impact have to evacuate. "You do not need to leave the state of Florida. You just need to find higher ground. The key is to not be in those areas with bigtime storm surge."
The Tampa International Airport closed at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday. All flights are suspended due to the impending storm, the airport announced Monday in a post on X.
"Check directly with your airline for the latest flight updates. TPA is not a shelter," the airport reminded passengers, to avoid people becoming trapped at the airport.
Utilities in the possible path of the storm continued to prepare Monday.
The largest utility in most of Pinellas and Pasco counties, Duke Energy Florida, called up about 4,500 workers to respond to expected outages, as Tampa Electric Co., which services Hillsborough and parts of Pasco County, mobilized more than 1,000 workers, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which added that utility companies were placing solar panels into "storm" positions.
In Jacksonville, Mayor Donna Deegan warned residents to prepare now, especially in areas of "vulnerable flooding along the St. Johns River and along the Atlantic coast."
On Florida's east coast, the United Launch Alliance delayed the launch of Tuesday's NROL-107 mission and put its Atlas V rocket safely back into ULA's vertical facility "out of an abundance of caution."
Idalia is expected to create a life-threatening storm surge for the west coast of Florida as it continues to move toward the state.
The St. Petersburg sector of the U.S. Coast Guard urged mariners to take advance precautions over the next two days.
"It is essential for mariners and the public to take proper measures before a storm arrives," sector Capt. Michael P. Kahle, said in a statement. "Ensure you secure all loose equipment, have a hurricane mooring plan or a safe place to store your trailered boat, and monitor the weather. Do not attempt to ride out the storm on your vessel."