- Hurricane Idalia remains on course for landfall in the Big Bend area, near Steinhatchee, FL
- Officials warn the track could still shift dramatically and even residents outside the current track should be prepared to evacuate.
- State officials expect widespread wind damage from downed trees, debris and powerlines, but say rescue crews will be ready to move in as soon as early evening on Wednesday.
The latest information released by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reveals that Hurricane Idalia is rapidly intensifying as it makes its way toward Florida’s Gulf Coast. As of 8:00 AM EDT today, the storm is approximately 320 miles south-southwest of Tampa, Florida, and is moving north at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 80 mph.
Data collected by NOAA Hurricane Hunters indicate that Idalia is likely to undergo rapid intensification before making landfall. Forecasters are predicting that it will become an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” by the time it reaches the coast on Wednesday.
Idalia’s current trajectory suggests it will make landfall near Steinhatchee, Florida, located just south of the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. The region is currently under a Storm Surge Warning, with water levels expected to rise significantly as the hurricane approaches. Storm surge heights could reach up to 8-12 feet from Aucilla River to Chassahowitzka, Florida.
During an emergency briefing this morning, state officials warned that the trajectory could shift, but also noted that the current impact area had only about 20-25 percent of the population areas compared to last year’s Hurricane Ian. Nevertheless, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned during the briefing that he expected widespread wind damage, including road closures and power outages from downed trees and other debris.
State officials are urging residents within the Hurricane Warning and Tropical Storm Warning areas to make final preparations to protect life and property. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Florida by late today or early Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are also anticipated to begin today, affecting regions including the Dry Tortugas and the Florida Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Idalia is also projected to impact rainfall and surf conditions significantly. The west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia, and the eastern Carolinas are also expected to experience heavy rainfall, with 4 to 8 inches forecasted and isolated higher totals of up to 12 inches, particularly near the point of landfall in northern Florida. The heavy rain may lead to flash and urban flooding, as well as landslides in western Cuba.
Swells generated by Hurricane Idalia are currently affecting portions of Cuba and the eastern Yucatan and will likely spread northward along the eastern United States Gulf Coast in the coming days. These swells are expected to result in life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
In addition to other hazards, there is a potential for tornado activity along the west-central Florida coast, spreading northward into the Florida Big Bend area by tonight.
Residents and local businesses are advised to promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials. The situation remains fluid, and additional watches and warnings along the southeastern U.S. coast will be issued later today.