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  • Writer's pictureMeteorologist Joseph Cooper

The Latest on Idalia: High-End Category 3 Major Hurricane to Hit Florida Wednesday

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Portions of the Gulf Coast of Florida remain on high alert as Tropical Storm Idalia continues to organize and strengthen in the Yucatan Channel. As of 5 pm EDT, Idalia was strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just 4 mph short of Category 1 hurricane strength. The storm has a central pressure of 987 mb and is moving north at 8 mph.

Through today, wind shear to the north and northeast of the storm has continued to weaken with only a small area of neutral to unfavorable wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico. In the next 18-24 hours, the center of low pressure will begin moving into the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With weakening wind shear and warm water, rapid intensification of the tropical system is likely. Rapid intensification is an increase in the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 30 knots in a 24-hour period.

As we head into tonight and tomorrow, a trough dipping down across the United States will start to pull Idalia further north and northeast. This will also increase the forward speed of the storm and move it across the Gulf of Mexico quickly. This could be the biggest limiting factor to the storm’s end strength, as it will not have a longer period to strengthen over the very warm waters.

Afternoon hurricane guidance continues to cluster the track and landfall into the Big Bend area along Florida’s Gulf Coast late Tuesday evening into early Wednesday morning. Overall, only minor shifts east and west have occurred in model data over the last 24-48 hours.

Intensity guidance continues to show Idalia becoming a strong Category 2 or a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Data suggests the storm will strengthen right up until it makes landfall late tomorrow night into early Wednesday.

The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) projects the eye of Idalia to make landfall somewhere between roughly Apalachicola to Clearwater, Florida. Current intensity forecasts call for a Category 3 Major Hurricane at landfall with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, gusting to 150 mph!

Other hazards will include storm surge of up to 7-12 ft for areas like Tampa Bay and the Big Bend region. Flash flooding and urban flooding is expected where 6-10” of rainfall is forecast to occur, and tornadoes are likely the right-front quadrant of the storm. If you live or have interests in this area, please continue to watch the storm closely in the coming 24-48 hours and follow local and state agencies for more information. Additional information can be found at and



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