A newly-formed tropical storm is headed toward Florida and could make landfall as a low-level hurricane around the Panhandle by mid-week, a forecast that has officials advising locals to start making preparations.
Idalia reached tropical storm strength on Sunday as the tropical cyclone over the record-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, as shown by data from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
“Interests in Florida need to stay up to date,” the National Hurricane Center said in a post to X, encouraging people to visit its website for the latest information. “Storm Surge and hurricane watches may be [needed] later today. Have your hurricane plan in place!”
Idalia is expected to reach hurricane status in the next 48 to 72 hours. As of mid-day on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center indicated that sustained maximum winds could get at least 90 miles per hour, which would be a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
10AM CDT 27 Aug: @NOAA_HurrHunter data shows TD-10 has strengthened to Tropical Storm #Idalia Interests in Florida need to stay up to date with the latest at https://t.co/tW4KeGe9uJ Storm Surge and hurricane watches may be need later today. Have your hurricane plan in place! pic.twitter.com/qySzomqYWh
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 27, 2023
Storm surge, flooding from heavy rain, and hurricane-force winds are all possibilities for the west coast of Florida and its Panhandle as the storm gets closer. While the predicted track of the storm could change over time, the center of the system appears to be on a course to make landfall sometime mid-week between Panama City and Tampa.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced last week that he directed his state’s emergency management team to prepare for the tropical system. “Residents should remain vigilant and prepare for possible impacts early next week,” DeSantis said in a post to X.
Though Idalia appears to be making a bee-line for Florida, impacts from the storm could also reach neighboring states such as Alabama and, later, Georgia and the Carolinas. In the meantime, it is poised to travel between Mexico and Cuba.
On Saturday, DeSantis signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency covering 33 counties.
“I signed an Executive Order issuing a state of emergency out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the Florida Division of Emergency Management can begin staging resources and Floridians have plenty of time to prepare their families for a storm next week,” DeSantis said. “I encourage Floridians to have a plan in place and ensure that their hurricane supply kit is stocked.”
Another tropical system in the Atlantic Ocean being tracked by the National Hurricane Center is Hurricane Franklin. Roughly 275 miles north-northeast of Grand Turk Island as of late Sunday morning, Franklin is expected to curl away from the Caribbean and the United States toward Bermuda.