In An Escalating Forecast, Tropical Storm Idalia Expected To Hit Florida As Major Hurricane
Dark clouds are seen due to the tropical storm Idalia in Havana, on August 28, 2023.
(Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

A major hurricane with the potential to cause significant damage could slam into western Florida by mid-week, forecasters warned on Monday.

Tropical Storm Idalia, which was blowing past Cuba’s Havana as of midday, is expected to undergo “steady to rapid intensification” as it travels over the warm waters of the eastern Gulf and reaches more favorable atmospheric conditions while moving north toward the Sunshine State, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The federal agency’s storm track projected Idalia’s center will hit the coast somewhere between Panama City and Tampa by early Wednesday morning as a Category 3 hurricane, though the reach of the storm’s outer bands will likely extend many miles beyond. That marks an escalation in the forecast that one day ago indicated a low-level Category 1 hurricane would make landfall.

Storm surge and hurricane warnings have been issued along Florida’s western coast as dangerous surf and winds become increasingly probable. Storm surge could reach as high as 7-11 feet above ground level somewhere between Chassahowitzka and Aucilla River, which led the National Hurricane Center to advise residents to adhere to instructions from local officials. There may also be areas of flash or urban flooding in Florida and neighboring states, as well as tornados.

A Category 3 storm is a “major” hurricane with sustained maximum winds between 111 and 129 miles per hour, per the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Such a cyclone has the potential to cause “devastating damage,” as explained by the National Hurricane Center’s webpage on the topic: “Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who paused his presidential campaign as the storm took shape and attended a prayer vigil after a shooting in Jacksonville, has mobilized resources in preparation for the weather event and announced issued an executive order on Monday that expanded the number of counties under a state of emergency from 33 counties to 46 counties.

“We are preparing for impacts from Tropical Storm #Idalia, which is expected to strengthen over the coming days before impacting the Gulf Coast mid-week. Florida has resources on standby that are ready to deploy as needed,” DeSantis said in a post to X.

In addition, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Florida, unlocking federal assistance for state, tribal, and local response efforts related to Idalia.

As with any weather prediction, the forecast may change over time. In its 10 a.m. ET discussion post, the National Hurricane Center said the track forecast has been “quite consistent” but noted that there “is still some spread in the guidance by 48 hours, and it cannot be emphasized enough that only a small deviation in the track could cause a significant change in Idalia’s landfall location in Florida due to the paralleling track to the west coast of the state.”

After making landfall, the storm is expected to rapidly lose strength as it travels over land. Idalia may then cross over to the Atlantic Ocean and travel along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina through the latter part of the week as a significantly diminished storm.


Another tropical system in the Atlantic Ocean being tracked by the National Hurricane Center is Hurricane Franklin, which became a Category 4 hurricane on Monday.

Roughly 440 miles north of Grand Turk Island as of late Monday morning, Franklin is expected to continue peeling away from the Caribbean and the United States before potentially grazing Bermuda from the north. Still, the National Hurricane Center warned on Monday that Franklin is producing large swells over the Atlantic Ocean while life-threatening surf and rip currents are occurring along the East Coast of the United States.

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