The National Hurricane Center said Idalia officially became a hurricane early Tuesday morning and is now recording top sustained winds of 85 mph.
The hurricane emerged out of the Yucatan Channel and now is in the southern Gulf of Mexico with its eye set on Florida’s Gulf Coast. A hurricane warning is in effect for Florida’s Gulf Coast from Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass. Tropical storm warnings were issued in the Fort Myers area due to Idalia’s outer bands.
The Atlantic Coast isn’t immune to the storm’s impacts as tropical storm warnings are in place from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, as it is expected to remain a powerful storm for some time after making landfall.
Before striking land, Idalia is expected to intensify rapidly and come ashore as a major hurricane.
What kept Idalia from rapidly strengthening was that it lacked an inner core. The National Hurricane Center said now that an inner core is present, the hurricane should go from Category 1 to a Category 3 in a matter of 24 hours.
“Catastrophic impacts from storm surge inundation of 10 to 15 feet above ground level and destructive waves are expected somewhere between Aucilla River and Yankeetown, Florida,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Life-threatening storm surge inundation is likely elsewhere along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect.”
The National Hurricane Center said areas of Florida’s Big Bend could have a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet. A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet is expected in Tampa Bay.
On Monday, when Idalia was churning off the western tip of Cuba as a tropical storm, Florida residents were urged to prepare. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated 5,500 members of the state’s National Guard.
“Pretty much anybody on the west coast of Florida, I mean you could see major, major impacts so please prepare accordingly,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis expanded the number of Florida counties under a state of emergency to 44.
Local officials and forecasters both say storm surge could be one of the biggest threats posed by Hurricane Idalia.
“Storm surge can be life-threatening at just 2 to 3 feet. Some of these areas are going to experience storm surge well over 7 foot. There’s not a person in this room that’s over 7 foot tall,” Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s director of the Division of Emergency Management, said.
The National Hurricane Center noted the storm could affect South Carolina and North Carolina, although there is little certainty in Idalia’s path after it makes landfall. The Carolinas, however, should prepare for potential flooding, the National Hurricane Center said.
The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring Hurricane Franklin, which could sideswipe Bermuda with tropical storm-force conditions. As of Tuesday morning, Franklin had top sustained winds of 130 mph.
It is supposed to gradually weaken as it heads for the cooler waters of the North Atlantic.
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