(Updated with new NHC bulletin and reports of deaths)
Miami, US, Aug 30 (EFE).- Florida Highway Patrol said in a press release that two men died in Florida in separate weather-related traffic accidents, Governor Ron DeSantis said in a briefing that the deaths must be reviewed before they can be confirmed to be related to Hurricane Idalia.
The storm continued its path north into Georgia, weakened to a category 1 hurricane.
“There’s a process for confirmed fatalities. It just goes through law enforcement and medical examiners. That has not been done yet where we have a confirmation. I know there are unconfirmed reports. Those may end up becoming confirmed,” said the governor.
Idalia, now downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, entered Georgia on midday Wednesday with sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) and brief gusts at higher speeds, the United States National Hurricane Center said.
The storm is moving on a north-northeasterly track at a speed of nearly 20 mph (31 km/h) and is expected to turn northeast later today.
Although it will continue to weaken while it’s center is inland, Idalia is expected to maintain hurricane status through Wednesday afternoon and possibly into the evening as it moves across southeastern Georgia and southern South Carolina, said the NHC.
The storm made landfall near Keaton Beach at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday with winds of 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour in an area known as the Big Bend, where the Florida peninsula appears to “bend” off the mainland just southeast of the state capital, Tallahassee, and north of the Tampa metropolitan area.
The storm surge, combined with the natural tide, is still expected to cause flooding in normally dry coastal areas. Storm surge warnings are in effect for parts of Florida, including Tampa Bay, and South Carolina.Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday morning confirmed Idalia was “a major hurricane as we have been saying it was likely to be for the last couple of days.”
“Don’t put your life at risk by doing anything dumb at this point,” he said, adding that “this thing is powerful.”
DeSantis, who during the press conference outlined the emergency measures that state authorities have deployed in anticipation of the hurricane’s landfall, urged people to “hunker down” in their homes and not to “mess around” with the high winds as “there’s going to be things flying all over the place.”
Officials have warned that the greatest danger is rising seas, which could surge to more than 15 feet at some areas along the northwest Florida coast.
“It’s going to be a big, big deal and it’s going to be very, very dangerous,” DeSantis said.
In addition to the warnings for northwest Florida, the NHC on Wednesday morning issued a hurricane alert for the US East Coast from Altamaha Sound in Georgia to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.
There are also minor warnings for areas of North Carolina and Virginia. EFE ar/ks/ics