Idalia rises to Category 3 hurricane, forecast for 4 at landfall

System to make landfall Wednesday morning in Florida's Big Bend
Hurricane Idalia, Aug. 29, 2023, at 11 p.m. animated graphic
Posted at 5:17 AM, Aug 29, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Idalia strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane early Wednesday and is expected to intensify into a Category 4 storm before making landfall Wednesday morning on Florida's Gulf Coast.

According to a 2 a.m. Wednesday advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Idalia has maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, which was 10 mph than three hours earlier, and is moving north at 15 mph. In the 5 p.m. update, it was 100 mph.

"Idalia rapidly intensifies into a major hurricane. Catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds expected in the Florida Big Bend region this morning when Idalia moves Inland," the NHC wrote at the top of its update.


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First Alert Meteorologist James Wieland said in the 11 p.m. update it "nudged a little west." Models could mean worse winds for Tallahasse, and worse surge in Apalachee Bay near St. Marks.

The center of the storm was about 100 miles southwest of Cedar Key and about 175 miles south of Tallahassee.

Hurricane Hunter aircraft data indicate that maximum sustained winds increased to near 120 mph with higher gusts. 
Conditions deteriorate in Spring Hill

Idalia's squalls began overspreading portions of the lower Florida Keys and the western coast of Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

Life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected Tuesday night and Wednesday along portions of the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Conditions across northern Florida will deteriorate throughout Wednesday.

The worst of the impacts will be for the west coast as Idalia makes landfall on Wednesday morning.


The latest computer models have Idalia making landfall in the Big Bend of Florida, as a major Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds.

Parts of Panhandle brace for powerful winds

After landfall, the center of Idalia is forecast to turn toward the northeast and east, moving near or along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina late Wednesday and Thursday. The NHC said the storm will likely remain as a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia.

While South Florida and the Treasure Coast will not get a direct hit, there will still be gusty, a few heavy rain bands swinging through Wednesday and Thursday. This will be Idalia's outer bands moving through, which will also bring a severe weather threat and the possibility of isolated tornadoes for the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County.

"As we go into later on today, we're gonna start to see those rain bands come into our area here locally," WPTV First Alert meteorologist Jennifer Correa said.


Winds will increase throughout Tuesday and peak on Wednesday, with wind gusts up to tropical storm force.

"We'll peak around tomorrow, early in the day through the early afternoon hours," Correa said. "But then by tomorrow night and especially Thursday, it'll still be on the gusty side, but typical."

A turn toward the northeast and east-northeast is forecast late Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the center of Idalia near or along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

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Moisture will trail behind Idalia on Thursday as the hurricane moves into the Atlantic waters offshore of the Carolinas, which will keep our weather stormy and breezy through Friday.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from Sebastian Inlet to Surf City, North Carolina.

There are no other weather watches or warnings in the WPTV viewing area.

While the weather is quiet right now on the east coast of Florida, rain chances are on the increase later Tuesday as some of those outer rain bands push into our area. Embedded in some of these bands we could see strong winds, heavy downpours and some tornadoes. The weather remains active overnight with more rain squalls pushing in. We're under a level 1/5 threat for severe storms and 1 out of 4 threat for flash flooding.

Tomorrow, highs in the low 90s with winds picking up out of the south, southwest at 20-30 mph with gusts up to 35-40 mph. Gusty rain squalls moving in from time to time throughout the day. Those squalls could produce isolated severe storms.

Thursday, highs in the low 90s with scattered showers and storms. Winds out of the southwest 10-20 mph, gusts up to 20-25 mph.

Friday, highs in the low 90s with scattered showers and storms and winds starting to taper off.

For the weekend, slightly drier air pulls in behind the tropical system and rain chances come down. Still can't rule out some showers and storms drifting in from off the ocean. Highs in the low 90s.

Early next week, the GFS shows moisture associated with Idalia pulling into the area, but the Euro shows drier air pushing in with Idalia moving away from the U.S. For now, we'll go with the chance for scattered storms and highs in the low 90s.

Tropical development on Aug. 29, 2023..jpg
Tropical development on Aug. 29, 2023.

Elsewhere in the tropics, Hurricane Franklin was a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 mph and about 230 miles west of Bermuda. Franklin was moving northeast at 12 mph, according to the 2 a.m. Wednesday update.

Steady weakening is forecast during the next few days.

Swells, life-threatening surf and rip currents are already affecting Bermuda and the coast of the southeast United States.

Tropical Depression 11 formed in the Atlantic on Tuesday. In the 11 p.m. AST update, the depression had sustained winds of 35 mph and was about 790 miles east-southeast of Bermuda. It was moving north-northwest at 2 mph.

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