Hurricane Idalia makes landfall in Florida with Category 3 winds. Here’s what meteorologists say is next.

Hurricane Idalia makes landfall in Florida with Category 3 winds. Here’s what meteorologists say is next.

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Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning as a powerful Category 3 along Florida’s Gulf Coast. After rapidly intensifying on its path through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and briefly registering as a Category 4 storm, the hurricane hit Florida’s Big Bend area with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. Meteorologists downgraded the storm to a Category 2 hurricane about an hour after Idalia’s landfall, as wind speeds decreased to 110 mph.

Idalia struck the coast at around 7:45 a.m. ET near Keaton Beach, roughly 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Videos and photos showed heavy damage as the storm brought strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous flooding to streets across the region.

Water levels along the coast of Florida’s Big Bend region were rising quickly Wednesday morning, and recent reports from a tide gauge operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated that levels reached 6.8 feet above “mean higher high water, which is an approximation of inundation in that area,” the National Hurricane Center said. The latest report from Cedar Key showed water levels have risen almost a foot since the hurricane made landfall.

The hurricane center previously warned of “catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds occurring in the Florida Big Bend region.” The Big Bend is the stretch of the Gulf Coast where the Florida peninsula meets the panhandle.

Storm surge in the region was forecast to reach up to 16 feet in some areas. 

“That level of storm surge is life threatening,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at an early morning briefing, adding, “There will be impacts far behind the eye wall, and those will extend to places like Tallahassee” and other parts of northeast Florida.

The National Weather Service acknowledged what meteorologists called a potentially “unprecedented” weather event in that area, saying a hurricane of Idalia’s size had never entered the Apalachee Bay, located just south of the capital city.

“In this part of Florida, particularly the Big Bend coast, we haven’t seen a hurricane landfall of this intensity in many, many, many years,” Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center, told “CBS Mornings” on Wednesday. Brennan noted the continental shelf in that area of Florida’s Gulf Coast amplifies the storm’s impact and makes the region more susceptible to devastating storm surge.

“We’re gonna see, you know, not just the storm surge but potential for damaging winds extending well inland all the way across portions of north Florida, into southern Georgia, into places like Savannah, Hilton Head. We have hurricane warnings in effect for the fast-moving hurricane. It’s going to bring those winds really far inland today and tonight,” said Brennan.

In Crystal River, north of Tampa, city manager Doug Baber told “CBS Mornings” that the most severe storm surge threats will come later on Wednesday, during high tide.

Hurricane Idalia’s projected path after landfall

National Hurricane Center forecasters say Idalia is expected to continue on a northeasterly path after making landfall. Its impact will be felt across much of the northern and central parts of the state, with high winds and heavy rain in addition to dangerous storm surge in coastal areas.

Later Wednesday and into Thursday, Idalia is then forecast to track across southeast Georgia and the coast of South Carolina and the southeastern portion of North Carolina before moving out to sea.

Hurricane Idalia forecast map

NOAA / National Weather Service


Hurricane Idalia rainfall forecast map
Hurricane Idalia rainfall forecast map

NOAA / National Weather Service


Hurricane Idalia wind speeds

Before reaching Florida, Idalia intensified in the Gulf of Mexico from tropical storm to hurricane strength Tuesday morning. It strengthened further to a Category 2, with sustained winds of 100 mph, on Tuesday afternoon. Overnight, it rapidly intensified to a Category 3 and then Category 4, with winds of 130 mph early Wednesday, before retreating slightly back to Category 3.

The National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, with higher gusts, in its 7 a.m. ET update. 

Category 3 means a hurricane has maximum sustained winds of between 111 mph to 129 mph. 

Any storm that reaches a Category 3 or higher the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — which runs from 1 to 5, based on a storm’s wind speeds — is considered a “major hurricane,” with the potential for “significant loss of life and damage,” the National Hurricane Center says. 

With a Category 3 storm, “Devastating damage will occur,” the hurricane center warns. “Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

How long is Hurricane Idalia supposed to last?

Idalia is likely to still be a hurricane as it moves across southern Georgia, and possibly when it reaches the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Idalia is expected to turn more toward the east and move offshore into the Atlantic on Thursday, decreasing in strength as it travels.

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