Hurricane Idalia is gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a projected landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a major Category 3 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Life-threatening storm surge and winds are “becoming increasingly likely” for parts of the state, the National Hurricane Center said. Evacuation orders and school closures were already in effect along the Gulf Coast amid storm-surge concerns.
Idalia (pronounced ee-DAHL-ya), which became a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday, was 120 miles west of the Dry Tortugas and 275 miles south-southwest of Tampa as of 11 a.m., traveling north at 14 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
The latest projections indicate that Idalia’s maximum sustained winds could reach up to 125 mph ahead of landfall.
“Rapid intensification is likely through landfall, and Idalia is forecast to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before landfall on Wednesday,” the National Hurricane Center said. The systems is traveling over with temperatures as high as 87 degrees. “These conditions are expected to foster rapid intensification before Idalia reaches the coast of Florida,” the reports said.
Idalia’s hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 15 miles from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 160 miles as of early Tuesday.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for the middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.
A storm surge warning is in place for Englewood north to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.
Idalia is forecast to head north and arc east into Florida’s Gulf Coast on Tuesday into Wednesday, with tropical-storm-force winds affecting the west coast as early as Tuesday morning. The hurricane center, which says the storm will come ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, is forecasting some of the highest storm surges from the Aucilla River to Chassahowitzka with 8 to 12 feet and 6 to 9 feet from Chassahowitzka to the Anclote River. The Tampa Bay area could see between 4 and 7 feet.
The latest hurricane warnings include new areas farther west, to Indian Pass at the western edge of the Big Bend region.
Ahead of Idalia, 46 Florida counties are under a state of emergency, including some on the northeast coast.
At least 21 counties along the Gulf Coast issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders by Monday night, and shelters have already begun to open with more expected to open Tuesday. The governor’s office said roadway tolls will be suspended starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday to help people evacuate.
The state of emergency for Tropical Storm Idalia does not currently include Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties. But South Florida could start seeing gusty winds, heavy rainfall and hazardous marine conditions that will continue through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service Miami. The storm also could coincide with South Florida’s king tides this week, adding to already elevated tides and making flooding more likely.
The storm will bring heavy rain and flooding to Florida’s west coast and Panhandle, with 4 to 8 inches falling from Tuesday into Thursday. Landfall areas in Florida could receive 12 inches.
Tornadoes are possible starting Tuesday along Florida’s west central Florida and moving north into the Big Bend area by Tuesday night.
At a briefing Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of the storm strengthening. “We’ve seen this before with Hurricane Michael, that continued to gather strength. So this is going to be a major impact. … Please prepare accordingly.
“If you’re on barrier islands, you’re going to get some type of storm surge,” he said, pointing out that Pinellas, Pasco, Levy and Dixie counties were particularly vulnerable, considering the current track models of the storm.
DeSantis also told Floridians on the west coast and inland, in the Tallahassee area, to anticipate losing power.
Some areas issued evacuation orders on Monday. Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida Division of Emergency Management, reiterated that Hurricane Ian last year proved that storm surge kills, and that evacuating a small distance inland or away from an impact zone can make a difference.
“Keep in mind, if you’re told to evacuate, you do not need to drive hundreds of miles. … You need to go to higher ground. In almost every instance, you can go 10s of miles to a shelter, to a hotel, to a friend’s house, whatever works for you. And you’ll be able to ride out the storm,” the governor said.
The 46 counties declared in the state of emergency: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Nassau, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, and Wakulla counties.
The state is staging 2,500 guardsmen and airmen, with 3,000 more being mobilized for a total of 5,500, DeSantis said Monday. The deployment has 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft at their disposal for rescue and recovery efforts.
A total of 400,000 gallons of fuel and eight urban search-and-rescue teams are staged for distribution if needed. Nearly 250 Starlink internet units used to create internet access after the storm have been deployed with another 529 staged.
The governor’s reminders to be prepared come just as the state opens its second “sales tax holiday” of the year for hurricane-related supplies. Florida’s “disaster preparedness” tax holiday continues through Sept. 8.
According to the News Service of Florida, DeSantis submitted a request for aid Sunday night to the White House and President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration, ordering federal assistance on Monday.
“I’ve spoken with the President,” DeSantis said Monday afternoon. “I’ve spoken with FEMA director Criswell, and I’ve spoken with a number of local officials throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast. Everybody is willing to work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the residents of Florida.”
VisitFlorida has activated the emergency accommodations module with Expedia to provide real-time availability of hotel rooms throughout the state. Go to expedia.com/florida.
Several Gulf coast counties have canceled school, and the University of Florida announced that it would close its campus and cancel classes, both in-person and online, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center forecast for the season predicted two to five major hurricanes for the 2023 Atlantic season.
Idalia is the third hurricane in the Atlantic this season. Hurricane Franklin, located near Bermuda Tuesday, strengthened into a Category 4 storm Monday as the Atlantic’s first major hurricane of the season.
In addition to Hurricane Franklin, forecasters are also monitoring an area in the central tropical Atlantic for potential development as well as a tropical wave near Africa’s west coast that is expected to move over the Atlantic in the next couple of days. As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, both were given a 50% chance of developing in the next seven days.
The National Hurricane Center has been predicting an “above-normal” 2023 hurricane season as a result of ongoing record-breaking sea surface temperatures that continue to fight off the tempering effects of El Niño.
While sea surface temperatures have remained hot for longer than anticipated, El Niño’s effects, which typically reduce hurricane chances, have emerged more slowly.
The National Hurricane Center, which operates under the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, has forecast 14 to 21 named storms, including six to 11 hurricanes, and two to five major hurricanes.
The next storm to form would be Jose.
Source: Berkshire mont