Idalia live updates: Storm strengthens to Category 2 hurricane


(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Idalia is forecast to make landfall Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend area, north of Tampa.

The storm is expected to strengthen further as it nears Florida, possibly becoming a major Category 3 hurricane by Tuesday night.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Aug 29, 6:21 PM EDT
Now is the time to evacuate, DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people ordered to evacuate to leave now if they haven’t already.

“If you are in an evacuation zone and you’ve been directed to evacuate, particularly if you’re in a low-lying area or coastal area, in that Big Bend region, now’s the time to do it,” DeSantis said during a press briefing. “If you wait much longer, by the time we get in further into tonight, the weather is going to start getting nastier and nastier.”

Over 50 shelters have been set up throughout the state, he said.

Idalia is expected to intensify to a Category 3 hurricane overnight, the National Hurricane Center said.

The impact of the eyewall is expected to arrive sometime Wednesday morning, DeSantis said.

The National Hurricane Center warned in its latest advisory that “life-threatening” storm surge could reach 10 to 15 feet in some of the Big Bend area.

Aug 29, 6:09 PM EDT
Latest path shows Idalia making landfall southeast of Tallahassee

The latest track shows Hurricane Idalia making landfall southeast of Tallahassee in the northern Big Bend area. This is a bit farther west than the previous track.

Idalia is then expected to skirt across southern Georgia and the Carolinas with tropical storm force gusts and flooding rain Wednesday through Thursday.

Isolated tornadoes will also be possible.

Extreme winds are possible far inland off the Florida coast because of how quickly the storm is moving — even Gainesville to Valdosta could see 110 mph winds.

-ABC News’ Melissa Griffin

Aug 29, 5:55 PM EDT
5,500 Florida National Guardsmen will be ready to assist with storm

Some 5,500 Florida National Guardsmen will assist with storm prep and response across the state, a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Over 3,000 Guardsmen have been fully activated, while another 1,800 are on their way, according to Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh.

The Department of Defense is also prepared to assist as needed, according to Singh.

“Prior to the storm landing, the department stands ready to assist the state of Florida, FEMA and state and local officials in any recovery efforts that are needed,” Singh said during a press briefing.

-ABC News’ Matt Seyler

Aug 29, 5:08 PM EDT
Idalia now a Category 2 hurricane

Idalia has strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions” expected along parts of the Gulf Coast of Florida Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Hurricane #Idalia Advisory 13: Idalia Now a Category 2 Hurricane. Life-Threatening Storm Surge and Hurricane Conditions Expected Along Portions of the Gulf Coast of Florida Tonight and Wednesday.

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 29, 2023

Aug 29, 3:05 PM EDT
South Carolina declares state of emergency

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency as Idalia nears.

South Carolinians should prepare for heavy rain, flooding, rough winds and possible tornadoes.

Aug 29, 2:53 PM EDT
DeSantis: Expect ‘significant impacts’ inland

It’s not just Florida’s west coast at risk.

Residents of North Florida’s inland counties should anticipate “significant impacts” from Idalia, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press briefing.

The time to implement emergency plans “is running out very, very rapidly,” he warned.

-ABC News’ Hannah Demissie and Will McDuffie

Aug 29, 2:32 PM EDT
FEMA: ‘This storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way’

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell stressed at Tuesday’s White House briefing that Idalia’s storm surge could be especially dangerous.

“This storm surge, this is one of the highest-risk parts of a hurricane and is especially problematic along the west coast of Florida due to the underwater geography,” Criswell said. “The coastal shelf gets shallow very quickly, which increases the amount of the storm surge, putting more people at risk. Very few people can survive being in the path of major storm surge, and this storm will be deadly if we don’t get out of harm’s way and take it seriously.”

Storm surge in Florida’s Big Bend area is now expected to reach 15 feet. Tampa is still expected to see a storm surge of 4 to 7 feet, which is enough to flood very vulnerable coastal areas.

“If you are in a storm surge warning area, it could mean just traveling 10 or 20 miles to get out of the most significant impact areas,” she said. “It does not mean having to travel hundreds of miles.”

Criswell also called on Congress to approve more funding for disaster responses. She said FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is running low at $3.4 billion, and said she’s ordered FEMA to focus on the Maui fires, Idalia and any other extreme weather events through the end of the fiscal year at the end of September.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Aug 29, 2:19 PM EDT
Idalia’s flight impacts

Over 1,400 flights Tuesday are delayed and 505 flights are canceled across the U.S. as Idalia nears.

So far, 425 U.S. flights are canceled for Wednesday.

The Tampa International Airport closed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and the St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport will close at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

-ABC News’ Amanda Maile

Aug 29, 1:07 PM EDT
Georgia declares state of emergency

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a state of emergency for Georgia, where Idalia is forecast to bring heavy rains, rough winds, flooding and possible tornadoes.

“Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families,” Kemp said in a statement. “We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring.”

Aug 29, 12:16 PM EDT
Big Bend region should expect downed trees, power lines

Hurricane Idalia will likely leave a lot of debris, downed trees and downed power lines as it churns through the woodlands of Florida’s Big Bend region, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.

“When you look at where this storm is going to hit, there is a lot of heavily wooded areas, so you’re going to see a lot of these trees knocked down, you’re going to see power lines knocked down, and it’s just going to require a concerted effort,” he said.

The governor said he anticipated between 30,000 and 40,000 linemen to be in Florida by the time Idalia makes landfall to help restore power.

-ABC News’ Hannah Demissie and Will McDuffie

Aug 29, 12:02 PM EDT
Tampa mayor: ‘Mother nature wins every time’

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is urging residents to move inland on Tuesday as Idalia nears.

Tampa Bay is forecast to get hit with 4 to 7 feet of storm surge, which will flood coastal areas.

“Mother nature wins every time. So if you have the opportunity to evacuate … you should,” Castor warned at a news conference.

Idalia could strengthen to a powerful Category 3 by landfall with winds at 125 mph.

Once winds reach a certain speed, rescue crews will not be able to go help, Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp said.

Tripp also advised residents to evacuate, but she noted that for those who choose to stay home, be sure to charge electronics and have enough food, water and medication for 72 hours.

Aug 29, 11:54 AM EDT
Idalia may make landfall as powerful Category 3 hurricane

Idalia, now a Category 1 hurricane, is forecast to intensify and make landfall between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday as a powerful Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph. (A Category 4 hurricane begins with 130 mph winds.)

Storm surge in Florida’s Big Bend area is now expected to reach 15 feet.

Tampa is still expected to see a storm surge of 4 to 7 feet, which is enough to flood very vulnerable coastal areas.

Powerful winds reaching about 74 mph are forecast to spread inland to Tallahassee and Valdosta, Georgia.

Flooding will be a concern from Florida to North Carolina. Some areas could see 1 foot of rain in just 24 to 48 hours.

Tornadoes are also possible from Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville up to Savannah, Georgia, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

-ABC News’ Max Golembo

Aug 29, 11:07 AM EDT
Walt Disney World remains open

Walt Disney World Resort, located near Orlando, said that as of Tuesday, its resorts and theme parks are open and “operating under normal conditions.”

“We are closely monitoring the path of the projected weather as we continue to prioritize the safety of our Guests and Cast Members,” the resort said.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.

Aug 29, 10:04 AM EDT
DeSantis addresses balancing hurricane management with presidential campaign

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Tuesday that the “nasty weather” from Hurricane Idalia will reach the Gulf Coast Tuesday night and he urged residents to implement their action plans immediately.

“We are going to be faced with a major hurricane hitting the state of Florida within the next 24 to 36 hours,” he said.

“You still have some time this morning and into the early afternoon. But as we get throughout this day, you are going to start to see rain and wind pick up, particularly the further south you are in the state of Florida,” he said. “And by the time we get to the end of tonight, you know, you’re going to see some nasty weather, so just be warned about that and do what you need to do right now.”

Asked about balancing crisis management with campaigning for president, DeSantis said, “You do what you need to do.”

He said he was “in the midst of a governor campaign” during Hurricane Ian in 2022.

“I had all kinds of stuff scheduled not just in Florida, around the country, you know, we were doing different things. And, you know, you do what you need to do, I mean, and so that’s what we’re doing. And so it’s going to be no different than what we did during Hurricane Ian,” he said.

-ABC News’ Hannah Demissie and Will McDuffie

Aug 29, 9:54 AM EDT
North Carolina declares state of emergency

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency ahead of Idalia, which is expected to bring heavy rain and possible flooding to the state.

“It is important for North Carolinians to gather emergency kits and prepare for the storm before it’s too late,” Cooper said in a statement.

Aug 29, 8:20 AM EDT
Idalia’s winds increase to 80 mph

Hurricane Idalia’s maximum sustained winds increased to 80 miles per hour on Tuesday morning as the storm moved over the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said.

As of 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, the storm was moving north at 14 mph and its eye was located about 320 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida. Idalia is expected to intensify further and become “an extremely dangerous major hurricane” before it makes landfall Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend area, north of Tampa, according to the National Weather Service.

Aug 29, 5:32 AM EDT
Idalia strengthens into hurricane with 75 mph winds

Idalia strengthened from a tropical storm into a hurricane early Tuesday as maximum sustained winds reached 75 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Idalia is “expected to rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane” before making landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service said in its latest advisory. Winds are forecast to reach 120 mph by Tuesday night.

As of 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday, the eye of the storm was located about 85 miles north of the western tip of Cuba and about 370 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida. The storm was moving north at 14 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

A hurricane warning, which means hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area, remains in effect for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio as well as parts of Florida, starting from the middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay. Other weather alerts were still in effect for more areas of Cuba and Florida, as well as Georgia and South Carolina.

Aug 28, 6:38 PM EDT
FAA ‘closely monitoring’ Idalia, airlines issue travel notices

Airlines and The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s monitoring Tropical Storm Idalia as it heads to the U.S.

The FAA posted on social media that it’s “closely monitoring” Idalia’s path, but it isn’t responsible for closing airports and canceling flights.

American Airlines issued a travel alert that allows its customers whose plans are impacted by Idalia to rebook their flights without incurring a change fee.

Southwest Airlines said it anticipates some changes to its schedule and an impact on its operation as the storm approaches. The airline has issued a travel advisory for its customers.

United Airlines has issued travel waivers for customers traveling to and from impacted airports. The company said it’s working to ensure its team is prepared to deal with the expected severe weather.

Aug 28, 6:15 PM EDT
Evacuation orders issued for multiple Florida counties

Multiple counties in Florida are under mandatory and voluntary evacuations as Tropical Storm Idalia barrels toward the state.

People living in zones in Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Hillsborough, Levy, Manatee, Sarasota and Taylor counties must evacuate the area, according to multiple county officials.

County officials are also urging people living in mobile homes, low-lying areas and along the coast to leave the area as Idalia approaches.

Officials in Hernando, Jefferson, Manatee and Pasco counties have also issued voluntary evacuation orders for particular zones.

-ABC News’ Michael Pappano, Jianna Cousin and Robinson Perez

Aug 28, 3:24 PM EDT
FEMA encourages everyone in Idalia’s path to ‘get prepared today’

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is encouraging everyone in Idalia’s path to “get prepared today.”

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and “emphasized the agency’s actions and readiness to support the state’s needs.” FEMA is also “closely coordinating” with Georgia and South Carolina to provide support as needed.

President Joe Biden also spoke with DeSantis earlier Monday and approved an emergency declaration.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Aug 28, 11:53 AM EDT
Tampa International Airport to close

Tampa International Airport will close at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday as Idalia nears.

A hurricane warning has been issued from the Tampa Bay area up to the Apalachicola area.

Aug 28, 11:49 AM EDT
Idalia could become hurricane on Monday, major hurricane by Tuesday night

Idalia is forecast to strengthen to a hurricane on Monday and may become a major hurricane by Tuesday night.

Landfall is currently forecast for 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday in Florida’s Big Bend region.

Storm surge is expected to be a major threat and could reach as high as 11 feet in the Big Bend area.

Up to 1 foot of rain could drench the Florida Panhandle and tornadoes are possible in Tampa and Orlando.

Idalia will move north Wednesday afternoon and evening, bringing heavy rain and potential flash flooding to Georgia and the Carolinas. Idalia will head out to sea on Thursday.

ABC News’ Max Golembo

Aug 28, 11:36 AM EDT
Idalia could be strongest hurricane for Big Bend since 1950

Idalia is currently forecast to make landfall along Florida’s Big Bend region between Apalachicola and Tampa as a Category 3 hurricane. If this happens, it will mark the strongest landfall for the Big Bend region since 1950, when Category 3 Hurricane Easy made landfall in Cedar Key.

Idalia’s potential landfall in Florida.

No hurricanes have ever made landfall in the Big Bend region stronger than Category 3.

It has been more than half a century since a hurricane of category 2 strength or stronger…

If Idalia makes landfall as a Category 2, it will be the first in the region since Gladys in 1968.

ABC News’ Kenton Gewecke

Aug 28, 11:04 AM EDT
Pasco County, Hillsborough County schools to close

As Idalia approaches, the Pasco County School District, north of Tampa, said its schools will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Schools in Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa, will also be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.


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