We are opening up the briefing that we sent to our corporate clients on the morning of Monday, August 28, 2023, to the public on the threat Idalia will pose to Florida and the Southeast this week. We hope that everyone in the path of this storm stays safe. We will also continue to have updates on our Weather Videos page.

Idalia To Strengthen Into Major Hurricane Before Wednesday Landfall In Big Bend Of Florida

Praedictix Briefing: Monday, August 28th, 2023

Key Points:

·  Idalia is strengthening off the Yucatan coast and south of the western tip of Cuba this morning, with winds of 65 mph as of the 5 PM ET update.

·  This is forecast to become a major Category 3 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday into Tuesday Night – undergoing rapid intensification – and then slam into the Florida Gulf Coast (likely in the vicinity of the Big Bend region) Wednesday morning.

·  The director of the Hernando County Emergency Management said this morning on The Weather Channel that their highest concern is storm surge along the coast (along with people not taking the threat seriously), and I certainly concur. The Big Bend region is especially vulnerable to storm surge, and the current forecast has a potential 7-11-foot surge from Aucilla River, FL to Chassahowitzka, FL, and 4-7 feet in the Tampa Bay area. Know your evacuation zone, as I would expect evacuation orders to be issued, including in low-lying areas near/around Tampa. Winds will push the water into Tampa Bay throughout the storm as it passes north of us, so we could see both freshwater (rainfall) and surge water (Gulf of Mexico water) flooding occurring at the same time. Also making this worse will be astronomical high tides with the full moon on Wednesday, which will lead to elevated water levels not only along the Florida coast but also in areas of the Mid-Atlantic as the storm pushes out into the Atlantic during the second half of the week.

·  Heavy rain will lead to inland flooding across the Southeast. Strong winds will start to hamper preparations as we head into Tuesday and Idalia gets closer and likely will lead to power outages in the mid-week timeframe as well.


Idalia Heading Toward Florida & The Southeast

Idalia Intensifying. We are tracking an intensifying Idalia this morning sitting about 125 miles south of the western tip of Cuba. As of the 4 AM CDT update, Idalia had winds of 65 mph and was moving north at 7 mph.

Rapid Strengthening Expected Before Landfall In Florida. We are watching what could be a very dangerous situation with Idalia as it heads toward Florida. While environmental conditions will allow for slower strengthening in the next day or so, it is expected to become a hurricane as it passes near the western tip of Cuba in the next 24 or so hours. However, once it gets into the Gulf, rapid intensification is expected as environmental conditions become favorable for this to occur. This is expected to bring Idalia up to major Category 3 strength before landfall along the Gulf Coast of Florida somewhere in the Big Bend region Wednesday morning. Preparations ahead of Idalia in Florida and the Southeast should be completed over the next couple of days (preferably today), as this storm will be bearing down on the region Wednesday. It is important to remember to not directly concentrate on the center of the cone, as not only could a small change in the track lead to a big change in landfall location due to how the storm will parallel the western side of the state, but major impacts will be felt far away from just the center of the storm, including along a lot of the Gulf Coast of Florida and into the Southeastern United States.

However, it won’t be just Florida that we’re talking about with Idalia, which plays into the impacts far away from the center I just mentioned. This system is expected to remain a hurricane Wednesday afternoon as it crosses into Georgia, and as at least a strong tropical storm as it moves along the Mid-Atlantic coast and eventually out into the Atlantic. This will cause wind, rain, and coastal flooding concerns here as well, especially as we are entering astronomical high tide with the full moon on Wednesday.

Tropical Alerts. We have numerous tropical alerts in place ahead of Idalia, including Hurricane, Tropical Storm, and Storm Surge Watches across portions of Florida. Along the coast, these include: 

Hurricane Warning: Pinar del Rio Cuba

Tropical Storm Warning: Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, including Cozumel… Isle of Youth, Cuba… Dry Tortugas, Florida

Storm Surge Watch: Chokoloskee to Indian Pass Florida, including Tampa Bay

Hurricane Watch: Englewood to Indian Pass Florida, including Tampa Bay

Tropical Storm Watch: South of Englewood to Chokoloskee Florida… Lower Florida Keys west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge 

Storm Surge. The surge of Gulf water flowing inland will be quite dangerous as Idalia pushes in, especially as we head into Wednesday. The greatest surge of water appears to be in the Big Bend region, where from Aucilla River, FL to Chassahowitzka, FL we could see a surge of 7-11 feet as that rising water moves inland. Due to low-lying areas and swamps in the Big Bend region (one of the most vulnerable areas of the coast to storm surge), we are likely to see the water surge several miles inland vs. what we saw with Michael a few years ago over toward Panama City. Even down toward Tampa Bay, we could see waters rise 4-7 feet. Know your evacuation zone, as they’re likely over the next couple of days, even in the Tampa area. As mentioned above, we are watching astronomical high tide as we head toward Wednesday. High tide for Tampa on Wednesday is expected around 4 AM and 2:30 PM.

Potential Inundation. On the current track and strength, you can see the potential of water surging miles inland in the Homosassa, Crystal River, and (west of) Inglis areas if we get all the ingredients to come together (the rapid strengthening, high tide, and current track). If we get changes in the track, where the highest surge would be is likely to change. You can even see low-lying areas of the Tampa Bay region potentially under several feet of water, and this issue could be exacerbated if the storm tracks a little farther south than currently expected. Anywhere in that Storm Surge Watch area from Chokoloskee to Indian Pass Florida, including Tampa Bay, should be prepared for a surge of water of some sort with Idalia Tuesday into Wednesday. This will be a major issue will Idalia – be prepared for evacuation orders.

Arrival Of Tropical Storm Winds. Today will be the best day to finish preparations ahead of Idalia across Florida – especially if evacuation orders are issued. This is very true across portions of southern Florida, where tropical storm force winds gusts could be possible as soon as Tuesday morning. These stronger winds would move into Tampa during the daytime hours, and push into northern Florida and portions of Georgia into the Tuesday Night timeframe. Tropical storm force winds will make preparations more difficult across the region – along with the potential of rain bands moving in.

Heavy Rain Threat. We will also track heavy rain with Idalia across Florida and the Southeast, with 4-8″ and isolated 12″ amounts possible from Tuesday through Thursday across the region. This will lead to the expectation of flash flooding – potentially some of it significant – as Idalia moves through. This is in addition to the coastal flooding threat. 

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

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