Storm siblings? Idalia tracking similarly to Ian’s unpredictable path

by | Aug 28, 2023

  • Tropical Storm Idalia aims at Florida’s Gulf Coast, potentially becoming a Category 2 hurricane with threats to life, property, and power outages.
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis is advising residents to prepare for the storm’s impact; some models predict it could reach Category 3 status.
  • Landfall areas range widely, centering north of Cedar Key, but forecasters warn of shifting paths; Taylor and Dixie counties are most likely affected.
  • As of Monday, Idalia is near Cuba, expected to intensify into a major hurricane, with storm surge and dangerous winds likely for parts of Florida.

Tropical Storm Idalia is currently taking aim at Florida’s Gulf Coast, particularly the Big Bend region, as it gains strength over the warm waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged residents to prepare for what could escalate into a Category 2 hurricane, threatening life, property, and causing potential power outages. Some models project Idalia to hit Category 3 status.

Similar to the way Hurricane Ian’s early forecast cone encompassed a broad range between Tallahassee and Tampa, Idalia might be thought of as the younger sister to last year’s devastating hurricane. Idalia currently has an identical range of potential landfall areas at this early stage. The centerline of the storm’s forecast cone is currently aimed just north of Cedar Key, but forecasters warn it can shift dramatically between now and the time it makes landfall. In a briefing on Sunday afternoon, DeSantis indicated that Taylor and Dixie counties are currently most likely to be affected, but residents along the Gulf Coast are cautioned to be vigilant.

“As we know, these things can wobble,” DeSantis said, urging those on the edges of the forecast cone to be prepared for dramatic shifts in direction.

According to the latest briefing from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, as of 8:00 AM EDT on Monday, Idalia was located about 90 miles south of the western tip of Cuba. The storm is forecast to pass near or over western Cuba tonight, entering the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Tuesday. The current prediction suggests that Idalia will make landfall on Florida’s Gulf coast early Wednesday.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and is moving north at 8 mph. Idalia is anticipated to become a hurricane later today and is expected to intensify into a dangerous major hurricane by early Wednesday as it approaches Florida.

A Storm Surge Watch is currently in effect for the Florida coastline, extending from Chokoloskee to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay. Likewise, a Hurricane Watch is in effect from Englewood to Indian Pass. The National Hurricane Center warns that life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds are becoming increasingly likely for portions of Florida.

State authorities are taking no chances. DeSantis has already mobilized 1,100 members of the Florida National Guard and lifted truck weight limits to facilitate quicker recovery. Staging areas are also being set up in North Florida to assist with power restoration and other recovery efforts.

Residents are being urged to make emergency preparations, including stocking up on water, non-perishable food items, and other essentials. A 14-day disaster-preparedness tax “holiday” started on Saturday, providing sales-tax exemptions on items like hurricane supplies.

Complicating evacuation plans between Tampa and Naples, a fuel contamination warning has been issued for gas stations supplied by Citgo from the Levy County community of Chiefland down to Naples. Human error at the Port of Tampa led to the strong likelihood that gas sold to a number of stations, including BJ’s and 7-Eleven, may be contaminated with diesel fuel. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has asked impacted stations to stop selling gas until the issue is resolved.

Fuel prices were already high, but Attorney General Ashley Moody has activated a state hotline for reporting price gouging at 1-866-966-7226.  Stay tuned for further updates as the situation develops.


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