Hurricane Idalia to miss Texas, make landfall in Florida Wednesday

Hurricane Idalia is the first storm to threaten the continental United States as a full-strength hurricane this season. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday shows Idalia coming ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a major hurricane. Here are five things you need to know about Hurricane Idalia.

1. Idalia will have no impact on Texas

When a tropical system enters the Gulf of Mexico, we tend to pay special attention to where the forecast takes it. How often does a system enter the Gulf and not impact someone along the Gulf Coast? Hardly ever. In this case, the main impacts from Hurricane Idalia will be felt along Florida’s Gulf Coast, especially near the quaint fishing village of Cedar Key. Idalia is forecast to come ashore near the Big Bend of Florida on Wednesday before pushing inland into southern Georgia and the Carolinas. 

2. Idalia is forecast to be a major hurricane

The National Hurricane Center expects Hurricane Idalia to make landfall during the late morning or early afternoon Wednesday. Idalia is forecast to become a major hurricane after rapidly intensifying Tuesday into Wednesday. A major hurricane is one that reaches Category 3 status or higher on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale and contain winds of up to 157 mph. Idalia is expected to come ashore as a Category 3, with winds of up to 129 mph. The Saffir-Simpson scale, which only takes into consideration maximum sustained wind speeds, suggests devastating damage is possible with a Category 3 hurricane.

3. Idalia could bring up to 15 feet of storm surge

Hurricanes bring way more than just wind and rain. One of the deadliest parts of landfall for a tropical system is the storm surge it brings with it. Storm surge is the rise of water by a tropical system over and above astronomical tides. For portions of the Gulf Coast of Florida, storm surge could be the highest it’s been since September 1896.

The National Hurricane Center predicts 10 to 15 feet of storm surge along Florida’s Big Bend and Nature Coast, prompting storm surge warnings for much of the west coast of Florida. Storm surge warnings are in place in Tampa Bay, where as much as 7 feet of storm surge is possible. Areas hit hard by Ian in 2022 will also be prone to storm surge with Idalia, though to a significantly lesser scale as residents further north along the Gulf Coast. 

4. Idalia is forecast to rapidly intensify

Hurricanes thrive on warm ocean temperatures and the Gulf of Mexico has an average temperature of around 88 degrees. The record warmth of the Gulf will go a long way in making Idalia a major hurricane and the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center explicitly states that rapid intensification is expected. Rapid intensification of tropical systems occurs when maximum sustained winds increase at least 35 miles per hour within a 24-hour period. Warming ocean temperatures have resulted in an increase in tropical systems that rapidly intensify according to research done by the climate science nonprofit, Climate Central. 

5. Texas is not in the clear yet

The Atlantic hurricane season runs through Nov. 30 and the peak of the season extends through mid-October. Earlier this month, forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center revised their forecasts and called for a busier hurricane season, which means more hurricanes and an increase in landfall potential from Maine to Texas.

This hurricane season could produce 14 to 21 named storms, forecasters said. Hurricanes are expected to make up six to 11 of these named storms, and two to five of those could become major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or stronger. We’ve had nine named storms this season, plus one that was named “Unnamed” earlier this year. 

HAROLD’S IMPACT: Tropical Storm Harold came ashore Aug. 22 and brought heavy rain and gusty winds to South Texas

While it remains unclear if the landfall of a tropical storm or hurricane will impact Texas through the remainder of the season, residents along the Texas Gulf Coast are encouraged to remain prepared for what the rest of the season could bring. 

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