GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is altering its travel plans for the team’s season opener at No. 14 Utah on Thursday night, hoping to avoid Tropical Storm Idalia.
A team spokesman said Monday that the Gators will practice in Gainesville on Tuesday, fly to Dallas and spend the night there, and then travel to Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Coach Billy Napier’s team had initially planned to fly from Gainesville to Utah on Wednesday.
“If you’re going to go west, that makes the most sense,” Napier said. “Hotel was a big logistical issue relative to where to go. … This could end up being a positive. We break the flight up. We get the players and the staff into Dallas, get a good night’s rest, a little extra focus and then obviously get to spend some more time together. We see that being positive.”
Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to start affecting Florida with hurricane-force winds as soon as late Tuesday and arrive on the state’s west coast by Wednesday. It is the first storm to hit Florida this hurricane season and a potentially big blow to the state, which is also dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian.
Idalia intensified Monday, and forecasters predicted it would hit in days as a major hurricane with potentially life-threatening storm surges.
Idalia thrashed Cuba with heavy rain, especially on the westernmost part of the island, where the tobacco-producing province of Pinar del Rio is still recovering from Ian’s devastation. As much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain fell in Cuba on Sunday, meteorological stations reported.