Hurricane Idalia could be the strongest storm to hit the Florida Big Bend region for a century, with projections it could become a Category 3 storm with 150mph winds and a 12 foot storm surge.
The large storm is currently churning around 80 miles off the western tip of Cuba and is barreling north towards Florida with winds now at 70mph. At 8pm on Monday the National Hurricane Center said Idalia had almost reached hurricane status.
It’s projected to grow into a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 150 mph before making landfall while also producing storm surge up to 12 feet.
The storm’s growing intensity and its northerly track put some 14 million Floridians under hurricane and tropical storm warnings along the Gulf of Mexico.
Authorities warned that the chief hazard to human life posed by the storm would be from surging walls of seawater driven inland by high winds, inundating low-lying coastal areas.
No hurricanes have ever made landfall in the Big Bend region stronger than Category 3, according to abc news.
If Idalia makes landfall, it will be the first in the region since Gladys in 1968 the outlet reported.
The National Weather Service also said the storm surge inundation and hurricane conditions may bring flash flooding from northern Florida to the Carolinas.
‘There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge from Idalia along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect, including Tampa Bay & the Big Bend region,’ they said.
‘Residents in these areas should follow any advice given by local officials.’
‘Buckle up for this one,’ Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a news conference on Monday afternoon, adding that he had spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell.
‘Do what you got to do. You still have time today. You have time for most of tomorrow,’ he said, urging Floridians to prepare for the potentially dangerous conditions.
Floridians have already been seen preparing for the storm by filling sandbags for themselves and fellow residents.
Meanwhile supermarkets have been raided by those rushing to get last minute supplies as the storm nears.
Idalia was forecast to reach hurricane strength late Monday and attain Category 3 force by the time it makes landfall in Florida on Wednesday.
Hurricane center forecasts showed Idalia’s center on track to come ashore in Florida’s Big Bend area, where the state’s Gulf Coast panhandle transitions into its peninsula region.
By Tuesday, Florida’s Gulf Coast could face torrential rains of 4 to 8 inches that could unleash scattered flooding.
Daytona Beach residents fill sandbags at Bethune Point Park, Monday August 28, 2023
Hillsborough County residents collect sandbags at Himes Ave complex in Tampa, Fla., on August 28, 2023 in preparation for the landfall of Tropical Storm Idalia
Tyrel Brooks helps Hillsborough County residents collect sandbags at Himes Ave complex in Tampa, Fla., on August 28, 2023 in preparation for the landfall of Tropical Storm Idalia. Idalia is expected to grow into a major hurricane by the time it reaches Florida late Tuesday
Hillsborough County residents collect sandbags at Himes Ave complex in Tampa, Fla., on August 28, 2023
Brooke Painter loads personal items into a van as she and her family evacuate their vacation rental ahead of the possible arrival of Hurricane Idalia on August 28, 2023 in Tampa, Florida
Owen Pope, a student at Eckerd College from Souths Carolina, packs his car after students were told to evacuate the campus Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla
Local grocery stores suffer with empty shelves as locals rush to gain supplies in Tampa on August 28
Local grocery stores suffer with empty shelves as locals rush to gain supplies in Tampa, Fla., on August 28, 2023 in preparation for the landfall of Tropical Storm Idalia
A Home Depot employee fills a cart with cases of water while moving them to the front door as customers prepared for Tropical Storm Idalia in Ocala, Florida
The National Hurricane Center warned Saturday that the system could produce dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and strong winds to Florida’s Gulf coast and Panhandle by midweek
Spectacular satellite footage shows storm crackling with lighting as it move towards Florida’s west coast.
Along with the heavy rain, winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph) could result in life-threatening storm surge, the hurricane center warned.
School districts across the region canceled classes starting on Monday afternoon. Tampa International Airport planned to suspend commercial operations beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 46 Florida counties with some 5,500 National Guard troops mobilized and thousands of electricity workers readied to help restore power quickly after the storm passes.
A man is evacuated from a flooded street as Storm Idalia makes landfall in Cuba, in Guanimar, Cuba, August 28, 2023
People on a flooded street pass by an image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara as Storm Idalia makes landfall in Cuba, in Guanimar, Cuba, August 28, 2023
Images show the destruction deadly Hurricane Ian has caused in Florida last September
Forecast models do not show the storm’s center approaching the areas of southwest Florida where deadly Hurricane Ian struck last year.
The devastating Category 5 storm left behind a trail of destruction in Florida as homes were reduced to mere piles of rubble.
So far this year, the U.S. East Coast has been spared from cyclones.
But out west, Tropical Storm Hilary caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures earlier this month in Mexico, California, Nevada and points to the north.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.