Home Weather UPDATE: Idalia Now a Hurricane and Expected to Intensify Rapidly

UPDATE: Idalia Now a Hurricane and Expected to Intensify Rapidly

6AM Update

We now have Hurricane Idalia on its way to a Florida landfall.  At 5 am, Idalia was located near 23.1 North, 85.0 West, about 370 miles south-southwest of Tampa.  Maximum sustained winds were 75 miles per hour — but don’t let that fool you.  Idalia is forecast to become a category 3 hurricane by the time it reaches the Florida coast on Wednesday.  Early Tuesday morning, Idalia was moving north at 14 miles per hour — and its forward speed is also forecast to increase today.  This will be a very dangerous hurricane event for the hurricane warning area, from Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass in the Florida panhandle.  This includes Tampa, which is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of storm surge.

South Florida’s Gulf coast can expect tropical storm winds, periods of very heavy rain, and 2 to 4 feet of storm surge.  These conditions will deteriorate today and last into Wednesday.

Portions of South Florida are under watches and warnings on Tuesday as Idalia approaches.  A tropical storm warning is in effect from Chokoloskee to Longboat Key, and this includes the Naples area.  There’s also a tropical storm warning for Dry Tortugas.  A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Lower Keys from Key West to the Seven Mile Bridge.

Tuesday features breezy conditions, some morning storms, and lots of afternoon and evening showers in the East Coast metro area and the Middle and Upper Keys.  The Gulf Coast and the Lower Keys will see increasingly windy conditions and periods of showers and storms.  Expect tropical storm conditions along the Gulf coast, starting Tuesday evening, as Idalia makes its closest approach.  All of South Florida could see periods of heavy rain, and there will be localized flooding in some areas.  Look for a high risk of dangerous rip currents at all South Florida beaches.  Highs on Tuesday will be in the sticky low 90s — but it will feel more than 10 degrees hotter, so stay hydrated.

Wednesday will be windy, with lots of clouds and periods of showers and storms.  Heavy rain and localized flooding are possible.  Wednesday’s highs will be in the tropically humid low 90s.

Thursday will feature breezy conditions, some sun, and periods of showers and storms as Idalia moves well to our north.  Thursday’s highs will be in the low 90s in the East Coast metro area and the Keys and near 990 degrees along the Gulf Coast.

Friday will see a mix of sun and clouds, with mostly afternoon showers and storms.  Friday’s highs will be mostly in the mid-90s in the East Coast metro area and in the low 90s along the Gulf Coast and in the Keys.

Saturday’s forecast calls for a mix of sun, clouds, showers, and some storms.  Highs on Saturday will be near 90 degrees in the East Coast metro area and in the low 90s along the Gulf Coast and in the Keys.

In the tropics, Idalia continues to strengthen as it moves northward.  Early Monday afternoon, Idalia was just below hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour as it neared western Cuba.  Florida can expect to see a rapidly intensifying and dangerous hurricane to our west on Tuesday.  It is forecast to make landfall early Wednesday morning somewhere in the hurricane warning area, which stretches from Longboat Key north to Indian Pass in the Florida panhandle.  This includes Tampa Bay, which could see 4 to 7 feet of dangerous storm surge.  Even the Naples area can expect 2 to 4 feet of storm surge, and the Keys could see 1 to 2 feet, enough to make portions of the Overseas Highway impassible.  Expect prolonged periods of tropical storm force winds in the Naples area on Tuesday evening into Wednesday, and the rest of South Florida can expect near tropical storm force gusts.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Franklin is bringing dangerously heavy surf and deadly rip currents to the southeast U.S. coast, and there is a tropical storm watch for Bermuda.

In a day or so, we’ll see that long-promised wave emerge from the African coast.  It has a medium chance of becoming a depression in the next several days as it moves to the northwest or west-northwest.

Donna Thomas has studied hurricanes for two decades. She holds a PhD in history when her experience with Hurricane Andrew ultimately led her to earn a degree in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. Donna spent 15 years at WFOR-TV (CBS4 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale), where she worked as a weather producer with hurricane experts Bryan Norcross and David Bernard. She also produced hurricane specials and weather-related features and news coverage, as well as serving as pool TV producer at the National Hurricane Center during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Donna also served as a researcher on NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Database Reanalysis Project. Donna specializes in Florida's hurricane history.