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Idalia strengthens into hurricane

Idalia strengthened into a hurricane overnight as it moved into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. As of Tuesday morning, winds have increased to 90 miles per hour and the hurricane continues to move northward at a speed of 14 mph.

In an update early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said the storm will bring life-threatening storm surge, with some areas expecting 8-12 feet of water. 

The storm is expected to undergo rapid intensification as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico and forecast models have it making landfall in Florida on Wednesday. The latest model data indicates the storm will become a major hurricane, potentially making landfall as a Category 3 with winds over 115 mph. 

A state of emergency has been declared in 46 counties in Florida. Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are also monitoring Idalia for possible impacts. 

A handful of counties in Florida have issued mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for their residents ahead of the storm.

As of Tuesday morning, Idalia is a hurricane. (Photo: NOAA)

As the storm approached Monday, Florida’s seaports began to prepare for Idalia’s landfall. 

The Coast Guard declared port condition Zulu for the Gulf Coast region, meaning that gale-force winds of 34 to 47 knots were possible within the next 12 hours due to the storm approaching Florida.

Gulf Coast facilities, including SeaPort Manatee — which is also at Zulu status — and Port Tampa Bay announced Monday morning they are closed to all inbound vessel traffic. The Coast Guard also declared port condition X-ray for the harbor at Jaxport on Monday but that is expected to be upgraded to Yankee by noon Tuesday. 

This is a developing story.

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