Hurricane Idalia is rapidly gaining strength in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and should be a major hurricane when it pounds Florida on Wednesday morning, forecasters said in the latest tracking report.
The National Hurricane Center, in its 11:00 a.m. update Tuesday, noted Idalia had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (5 mph faster than the previous report) and had slightly altered its path.
The storm is now expected to hit the Apalachee Bay area, just south of Tallahassee, Wednesday morning. Current models predict the storm will be a strong Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds approaching 127 mph.
The current track has it proceeding over southeast Georgia, then along the South Carolina coast, bringing Tropical Storm force winds. (An area from central Florida through Myrtle Beach, S.C., is currently under a Tropical Storm warning.)
While Idalia will be weaker as it moves up the coast, forecasters are concerned that it will occur at the same time as the Super Blue Moon. Tides in coastal towns will already be as much as a foot higher due to the lunar gravitational pull. With the heavy rains the storm will bring, that could result in devastating flooding.
“Life-threatening storm surge inundation is likely elsewhere along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast,” the National Hurricane Center warned. “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.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency and warned residents of his state to make “final preparations” before the storm arrives.