Idalia to strike Florida as hurricane on Wednesday morning

Idalia to strike Florida as hurricane on Wednesday morning: Live updates

26m ago / 9:01 AM UTC

Idalia strengthens to hurricane and will intensify

Idalia has strengthened into a hurricane and is expected to “rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane” before making landfall in Florida tomorrow.

In a 4 a.m. CT (5 a.m. ET) update, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 85 miles north of the western tip of Cuba and about 370 miles south southwest of Tampa, Florida.

The system had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the hurricane center said.

1h ago / 8:18 AM UTC

Hurricane watches and warnings in place

A number of hurricane, storm surge and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast and elsewhere.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for parts of Florida from the Middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, a Hurricane Watch is also in place from Englewood to the Middle of Longboat Key, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Englewood northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay, with a Storm Surge Watch is also in effect for Chokoloskee northward to Englewood, including Charlotte Harbor, as well as from the mouth of the St. Mary’s River to the South Santee River in South Carolina, the NHC said.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the Dry Tortugas, an archipelago of islands about 70 miles west of Key West, along with Chokoloskee northward to the Middle of Longboat Key; West of Indian Pass to Mexico Beach and from the Sebastien Inlet to Altamaha Sound, Georgia.

1h ago / 8:18 AM UTC

Idalia to bring heavy rains and risk of tornadoes

Idalia is expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain today into Thursday to parts of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia and the eastern Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said.

Isolated totals of 12 inches are also possible, primarily near where the system makes landfall in northern Florida, the hurricane center said.

Local residents wade through a flooded area of Batabano, Cuba, on Monday.Yamil Lage / AFP – Getty Images

The rain could bring flash and urban flooding to parts of Florida and southern Georgia today into Wednesday, before spreading into parts of the eastern Carolinas Wednesday into Thursday, it said.

A few tornadoes may also be possible along the west central Florida coast, with the tornado threat expected to spread northward into the Florida Big Bend by tonight.

Swells generated by Idalia are affecting parts of the southern coast of Cuba and eastern Yucatan, the hurricane center said. The swells are expected to spread northward along the eastern Gulf Coast over the next day or two and they could cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the center said.

1h ago / 8:18 AM UTC

Tropical Storm Idalia barrels toward Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia appears on track to develop into a hurricane as it makes it way toward Florida’s coast, forecasters said.

As of around 1 a.m. CT (2 a.m. ET), the storm was moving over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Rapid strengthening is predicted during the next day or so,” the NHC said, with the system forecast to become a hurricane sometime this morning.

Idalia is likely to become a “major hurricane,” which is defined as Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, early tomorrow — the same day it is expected to reach the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to the hurricane center.

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