Idalia strengthens into hurricane, expected to rapidly become Category 3 before striking Florida’s Gulf Coast

Idalia became a hurricane on Tuesday as it intensified on a path toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, with the National Hurricane Center warning of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida in the next two days.

At 5 a.m. the center of Hurricane Idalia was located by Cuban radar near latitude 23.1 North, longitude 85.0 West, about 85 miles north of the western tip of Cuba.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 mph with higher gusts, and the system is expected to rapidly intensify through landfall. Idalia is forecast to become an extremely dangerous major hurricane before striking the Gulf Coast, and the current update has the system remaining a Category 1 storm as it passes over Northeast Florida.

Idalia is moving toward the north near 14 mph, and a northward motion is expected Tuesday, followed by a faster north-northeast motion later Tuesday and Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the center of Idalia is forecast to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, reach the Gulf coast of Florida within the Hurricane Warning area on Wednesday, and move close to the Carolina coastline on Thursday.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 981 mb (28.97 inches).

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.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin on Wednesday in the warning area along the east coast of Florida and South Carolina Tropical storm conditions are possible along the southeast U.S. coast within the southern portions of the watch area by early Wednesday.

The potential hazards for Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia at this time are heavy rainfall, localized flooding, elevated rip currents, elevated seas and gusty winds. Locally, we will feel the brunt of the effect Wednesday.

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