Hurricane Idalia rapidly intensifies to dangerous Category 3 storm as it aims for Florida’s Big Bend region

Hurricane Idalia strengthened overnight into a dangerous Category 3 storm and continues to steam toward Florida’s Big Bend region.

The National Hurricane Center warned the storm will bring catastrophic impacts from storm surge inundation along the west coast of Florida and dangerous hurricane-force winds.

It is forecast to make landfall as a Category 4 storm with at least 130 mph winds.

MORE: Hurricane Idalia menaces Florida’s Big Bend, the ‘Nature Coast’ far from tourist attractions

At 2 a.m. the center of Hurricane Idalia was located about 100 miles southwest of Cedar Key and 175 miles south of Tallahassee.

Hurricane Hunter aircraft data indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 mph with higher gusts, making Idalia a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Idalia is likely to still be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia, and possibly when it reaches the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina on Wednesday.

A Category 2 has winds between 96 mph and 110 mph that can create extensive damage. Category 3 is considered a major hurricane, with winds of 111 to 129 mph, which will cause devastating damage. Category 4 is considered a catastrophic storm that can cause widespread damage and cause an area to be uninhabitable for weeks or months, NHC said.

Hurricane #Idalia Advisory 14A: 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.

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 30, 2023

Idalia is moving toward the north near 15 mph. A northward to north-northeastward motion is expected through morning, with Idalia’s center forecast to reach the Big Bend coast of Florida this morning. After landfall, Idalia is forecast to turn toward the northeast and east-northeast, moving near or along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina late Wednesday and Thursday.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles.

The estimated minimum central pressure based on Hurricane Hunter aircraft observations is 945 mb.

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.

Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area in Florida in a few hours, with tropical storm conditions spreading northward and westward through Wednesday morning.

Tropical storm conditions will continue within the tropical storm warning area along the Florida Gulf and west coasts.

Hurricane conditions are possible in the hurricane watch area along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina later Wednesday.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin later Wednesday in the warning area along the east coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and spread into North Carolina Wednesday and Thursday. Tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in North Carolina by Thursday.

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

NHC said there will be catastrophic impacts from storm surge inundation of 10-15 feet above ground level and destructive waves between Aucilla River and Yankeetown.

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