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Florida issues state of emergency for half its counties as Tropical Storm Idalia heads for state

A state of emergency was issued for half of Florida counties on Saturday ahead of a potential hurricane that is on track to hit the state.

“I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 33 counties in preparation...,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Issuing this order today ensures communities have time to prepare for the storm system which could have impacts along the Gulf Coast next week.”

He added: “Floridians should have a plan and a stocked supply kit and follow @FLSERT for updates.”

Mr DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, declared the state of emergency for Florida while on the campaign trail in Iowa.

The National Hurricane Center said that it expects Tropical Storm Idalia to strengthen into a hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“There is an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge, flooding from heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds along portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle beginning as early as Tuesday,” the National Hurricane Center wrote on Sunday.

“Although it is too soon to specify the exact location and magnitude of these impacts, residents in these areas should monitor updates to the forecast, have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials,” the statement continued.

The center added that the “storm surge and hurricane watches may be required for portions of the Gulf coast of Florida later today.”

“If you’re anywhere along the western Florida peninsula — so let’s say from about Fort Myers northward to the Panhandle — you really got to be paying attention, even if you’re outside of the cone,” National Hurricane Center deputy director Jamie Rhome said in a video briefing on Sunday.

No watches or warnings have been issued for the continental United States yet by the National Hurricane Center.

As Idalia threatens the US, Hurricane Franklin is barrelling toward Bermuda and its flooding has already devastated parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, killing at least one person.