US oil and gas giant Chevron said on Tuesday it has evacuated staff from three of its oil platforms in the US Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Idalia heads towards Florida’s west coast.

Energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan has also said it plans to shut one of its petroleum pipelines that runs through the region, Reuters reports.

Power cuts have also begun to cause problems. More than 161,000 customers are currently without power in the state, according to Further destruction to power lines and extreme flooding expected to complicate the situation. Residents have been advised to keep their distance from power lines, which could still be live and cause risk to life if taken down by the storm.

The Hurricane grew stronger as it moved across the Gulf towards Florida. This morning it was upgraded to a category 4 storm, just one category below the most severe rating of 5. Evacuations of residents across the region have already taken place, with the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warning that Idalia will bring “life-threatening” weather to the state.

It also warned of a “catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds” nearing the vulnerable Florida Big Bend region, which has not seen such severe storms for more than 200 years, according to the NHC.

Wind speeds from the hurricane are now expected to reach at least 130mph and coastal areas could be deluged by a storm surge of 10–15ft. The storm surge has already set a record for raised water levels in Tampa Bay, with nearly 4ft of water currently pooling in the region and more rainfall expected to push this higher as the morning goes on.

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“Very few people can survive being in the path of a major storm surge, and this storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Deanne Criswell.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has urged residents to heed evacuation warnings. “This is crunch time right now. We are going to be hit with a major hurricane… You really got to go now,” he told CNN.

Of Florida’s 67 counties, 28 were under some form of evacuation order as of Tuesday evening and 14 of these were mandatory evacuation orders. Idalia will be the fourth major hurricane to hit Florida in the past seven years, with Ian, which peaked at category 5, devastating the state less than one year ago.

“We are starting to see an almost apocalyptic scene here,” Michael Bobbitt, a resident of Cedar Key, located on the coast in Levy County in the Gulf of Mexico, told CNN. “The gulf is rising up to swallow up the boat ramp and Dock Street, where all of the popular tourist restaurants and shops are.”