Over the course of the day, Idalia become much better organized and strengthened a lot compared to yesterday’s status. It is expected to become a hurricane soon. Additional measurements and computer models have allowed the National Hurricane Center to tighten up the forecast cone predicting where Idalia will go and how strong it will get. The latest forecast shows that Idalia is expected to move to the north over the next day, bringing the circulation over very warm Gulf water. This will allow it to intensify rapidly as it starts to curve towards the northeast Gulf Coast in Florida, where it is expected to make landfall on the coast on Wednesday as a major hurricane with winds of 120 mph and potentially even higher wind speeds. It will continue to move to the northeast, passing into Georgia as a hurricane before it weakens as it heads for South Carolina.
Most areas along the path will receive 6-10 inches in Florida, with 4-6 inches expected in Georgia and South Carolina (although a few areas may get more). One of the biggest concerns with the storm is the storm surge that will hit the Florida Coast as the storm approaches. It could reach up to 12 feet in some areas. Depending on the path of Idalia, Tampa Bay could experience a storm surge of up to 9 feet, which would put many areas along the coast underwater. On the East Coast, a storm surge of 2-4 feet is expected along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, although it could be higher if it hits at high tide, which is especially high this week due to the full moon.
The track forecasts have drifted east over the day but the last couple have moved back slightly to the west as new observations and computer models have been added. It is important not to focus on the center of the track because the storm is quite large and impacts like heavy rain and high winds extend quite a ways out from the center of the circulation. Tropical-storm-force winds could start in southern Florida as soon as Tuesday morning,although they are more likely to start Tuesday afternoon or evening. In Georgia, they are likely to start as soon as Tuesday night but are more likely to start Wednesday morning. Storm winds could start in South Carolina as soon as Wednesday morning but it will more likely be Wednesday afternoon. There may also be some isolated tornadoes that occur to the right (east) of the forecast track as the storm approaches. Preparations wherever you are should be completed before the strong winds are expected to start. Note that there will be changes in the forecast over time so be sure to keep watching for the latest track, rainfall, and surge information.
You can find the latest graphical updates from the National Hurricane Center at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at5.shtml?start#contents.
After Idalia moves out of the Southeast, calm weather should return to the region for the Labor Day Weekend, although waves and rip currents may continue along the Atlantic Coast as Idalia pulls away.