Idalia strengthens into hurricane, expected to rapidly become Category 3 before striking Florida’s Gulf Coast

Idalia became a hurricane on Tuesday as it intensified on a path toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the National Hurricane Center warning of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida in the next two days.

At 8 a.m. the center of Hurricane Idalia was located near latitude 23.8 North, longitude 84.8 West, about 320 miles south-southwest of Tampa.

Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 80 mph with higher gusts, and the system is expected to rapidly intensify through landfall.

Idalia is forecast to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before striking the Gulf Coast, and the current update has the system remaining a Category 1 storm as it passes over Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

A Category 1 Hurricane has winds of 74 mph to 95 mph, strong enough to produce SOME damage and power outages. A Category 2 has winds between 96 mph and 110 mph that can create extensive damage. Category 3 is considered a major hurricane, with winds of 111 to 129 mph, which will cause devastating damage.

Idalia is moving toward the north near 14 mph, and a northward motion is expected Tuesday, followed by a faster north-northeast motion later Tuesday and Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the center of Idalia is forecast to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, reach the Gulf coast of Florida within the Hurricane Warning area on Wednesday, and move close to the Carolina coastline on Thursday.

The estimated minimum central pressure based on dropsonde data is 977 mb.

Areas of flash and urban flooding, some of which may be locally significant, are expected across portions of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, and southern Georgia Tuesday into Wednesday, spreading into portions of the eastern Carolinas Wednesday into Thursday.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin on Wednesday in the warning area along the east coast of Florida and South Carolina. Tropical storm conditions are possible along the southeast U.S. coast within the southern portions of the watch area by early Wednesday.

The potential hazards for Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia at this time are heavy rainfall, localized flooding, elevated rip currents, elevated seas, gusty winds and the possibility of tornadoes. Locally, we will feel the brunt of the effect Wednesday.

How Hurricane Idalia will impact our area

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