The National Hurricane Center elevated Idalia to a Category 2 hurricane on Tuesday afternoon, warning residents in its path to prepare for storm surge that could reach up to 15 feet in parts of Florida.
Storm watchers had already recorded sustained winds from Idalia at around 100 mph after 5 p.m., and significant swaths of Florida's Gulf Coast were under a hurricane warning.
The Florida Department of Corrections issued an alert that the agency was beefing up preparedness and following emergency protocols to keep the public and prisoners in its facilities safe.
In an announcement on Tuesday, state corrections officials said prisons and jails in Florida would be implementing protocols to manage facilities in the storm's path, and said officials would make decisions on inmate evacuations on a case-by-case basis.
FDC staff said there were operations already in process to increase water and food supplies at prisons, and to prepare for how supplies would continue to be delivered.
The department said its highest priority is public safety, along with the safety of staff and of the inmates.
FDC said if evacuations happen, they would announce them "upon completion."
The department said inmate relocations would be announced on the FDC website within 24 hours after they are relocated.
The public was told that inmate visitations for this week would be canceled to prepare for the storm.
A hurricane warning was put in effect for Gulf Coast communities from Longboat Key, and northward to Indian Pass. Tropical storm warnings were issued in the Fort Myers area because of Idalia's outer bands.
A hurricane watch was also placed over the mouth of the St. Mary's River, and northward to Edisto Beach.
Over on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and neighboring states, tropical storm warnings were issued over Sebastian Inlet, and over to South Santee River in South Carolina, as Idalia was expected to remain a powerful storm for a sustained window of time after it made landfall, and was forecast to move northeast.
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