Amid hurricane, Gators alter travel plans for opener at Utah

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is altering its travel plans for the team's season opener at No. 14 Utah on Thursday night, hoping to avoid Hurricane Idalia.

Florida coach Billy Napier said the Gators will practice in Gainesville on Tuesday before flying to Dallas to spend the night there. The team will then travel to Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

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."

Idalia became a hurricane Tuesday, and the National Hurricane Center warned of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds in Florida on Tuesday and 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 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 of rain fell in Cuba on Sunday, meteorological stations reported.

The center of the hurricane is forecast to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday, reach the Gulf Coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area Wednesday, and move close to the Carolina coastline on Thursday.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.