Tropical Storm Idalia is picking up intensity as it barrels toward the state of Florida, prompting President Joe Biden on Monday to declare a state of emergency.
The president "ordered Federal assistance to supplement State, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Tropical Storm Idalia," the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement.
The storm system is heading toward Cuba and is expected to track north through the Gulf of Mexico with Florida in its crosshairs. Forecasters are predicting that Idalia could potentially develop into a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on Wednesday.
"Idalia is now forecast to become a major hurricane before it reaches the Gulf coast of Florida," the National Weather Service (NWS) posted on X. "The risk continues to increase for life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds along portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle beginning as early as late Tuesday."
Biden's declaration of emergency encompasses 33 Florida counties. It authorizes federal officials "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population," said FEMA.
The National Weather Service said residents should prepare accordingly for this emergency and monitor updates on Idalia's track. Some residents in the Tampa Bay area have already been evacuated due to the potential of 4 to 7 feet of storm surge, which is when the strong winds push seawater above normal levels and inward to coastal land.
"Storm surge and hurricane watches are in effect," said the NWS. "Follow any advice given by local officials."