BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – On Florida’s Gulf Coast, Hurricane Idalia is strengthening as a Category 1 — as it heads right for the big bend area of Florida.
Hillsborough County, which is where Tampa is has issued a mandatory evacuation for areas directly along the coast. Residents in mobile homes and low-lying areas have been told to get out.
Shelters have opened up across the area as well. Sandbags are being made available and there’s a long line for pretty much everything from gas to food.
News 4 is hearing from Western New Yorkers who are in the path of the storm. Dante Cotroneo is from Orchard Park. He’s a transfer student at the University at Tampa. He’s been on campus for only three days and then was told to get out.
“They have set up a couple of safe houses, if you have no plan or nowhere to stay there are safe houses setup more central in the State of Florida, but they are just telling people to get out of dodge they gave us the notice at 6 p.m. yesterday,” Cotroneo said, “The evacuation basically said that we have to be off campus Tuesday and Wednesday and hopefully classes will resume on Thursday, we won’t know until probably Wednesday afternoon, they’re going to give us another update, but they just warned us to basically get out of dodge to get out of the Tampa area because it’s not safe whatsoever.”
Dante has family in Orchard Park and Hamburg — he says he’s been staying in touch with them regularly.
We also heard from Megan Blake, who’s from Amherst. She and her family have been staying at the Legoland Resort, that’s just east of Tampa. She sent us a picture of thick clouds moving in and says they will be hunkering down for the next day or two.
“We will most likely experience tornadic, tornadic weather and they are concerned about power outages and it is 92 degrees, so to be without power in a hotel we’re on the top floor would be pretty uncomfortable in this heat,” Blake said.
News 4 is also hearing from Western New Yorkers who have ended their vacation early and are coming back to Buffalo, due to the storm.
Jennifer Stewart and her family, who are from the Buffalo area, were staying on Treasure Island. They were supposed to stay until Thursday. But they were told Monday morning that they had to evacuate. Her 14-year-old daughter was supposed to fly from Tampa to Buffalo Tuesday morning, to be home for high school orientation Wednesday. But, her flight ended up being cancelled, so now they’re driving home.
Many Western New York natives not only live in Florida, they also have loved ones there or own property there. The storm is expected to be make landfall Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane.
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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.