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Tropical Storm Idalia: Florida's Gulf Coast braces for dangerous system that could be Category 3 hurricane

Tracking Tropical Storm Idalia: 11 p.m. Monday update (8/28/23)
Tracking Tropical Storm Idalia: 11 p.m. Monday update (8/28/23) 03:19

MIAMI - Part of Florida's Gulf Coast was bracing as Idalia intensified Monday and forecasters predicted it would hit in days as a major hurricane with potentially life-threatening storm surges.

Idalia at 11 p.m. Monday (8/28/23)  CBS News Miami

By Monday night, Idalia was "almost a hurricane" as it inched closer to the United States, and a life-threatening storm surge was becoming increasingly likely for parts of Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Idalia preparations underway in Tampa area 01:52

The storm was packing 70 mph winds and was roughly 20 miles southwest of Cuba's western tip.

Although South Florida is not included in the cone of uncertainty, the Miami area will be on the storm's east side and will likely experience gusty downpours and the potential for severe weather beginning Tuesday through Wednesday.

Idalia is expected to start affecting Florida with hurricane-force winds as soon as late Tuesday and arrive on the coast by Wednesday. It is the first storm to hit Florida this hurricane season and a potentially big blow to the state, which is also dealing with lingering damage from Ian.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 46 counties, a broad swath that stretches across the northern half of the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast. The state has mobilized 1,100 National Guard members, who have 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft at their disposal for rescue and recovery efforts.  

Florida Keys prepare for Idalia 02:10

The governor was holding a series of news conferences throughout the state to prepare for the storm.

Idalia impact on Florida

Impacts from Idalia will be felt from the Keys to portions of the state's western coast as soon as Tuesday. Wind speeds will increase across Monroe County and the state's southwestern coast as early as Tuesday morning.

Gusty winds are likely across a large portion of Florida, including inland areas, by Tuesday night as Idalia's outer bands lap inland.  

Floridians prep for soon to be Hurricane Idalia 01:53

DeSantis warned of a "major impact" to the state, noting that what was originally forecast to be nothing stronger than a tropical storm was now predicted to become a Category 3 hurricane.

"The property — we can rebuild someone's home," DeSantis said during a news conference Monday. "You can't unring the bell, though, if somebody stays in harm's way and does battle with Mother Nature. This is not something that you want to do battle with."

On Monday afternoon, the storm was about 50 miles off the western tip of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, the hurricane center said. Idalia was moving north at 8 mph (13 kph). 

On Tuesday, it was expected to turn northeast at a faster pace, reaching Florida's western coast as a dangerous major hurricane on Wednesday.  

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations were issued for at least six counties along Florida's Gulf Coast with less than 48 hours before the storm makes landfall, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of many more to come.

"This is going to be a major impact," DeSantis said during a Monday morning news conference, warning Floridians should expect Idalia to be a major hurricane – Category 3 or higher – at landfall.

The Lower Keys was under a Tropical Storm Watch that extends from west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge, according to the National Weather Service.

Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's west coast as Tropical Storm Idalia is forecast to be a major hurricane when it heads toward Florida's Big Bend region.

Watches and warnings 8/28/2023 11AM NEXT Weather

On the forecast track, the center of Idalia is forecast to pass near or over western Cuba on Monday night, over the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Tuesday, and reach the Gulf coast of Florida on Wednesday.

It would be the second major hurricane this season. Hurricane Franklin strengthened into the first early Monday in the Atlantic. 

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Cuban province of Pinar del Rio
  • Middle of Longboat Key northward to the Ochlockonee River,
    including Tampa Bay  

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  •  Englewood to the Middle of Longboat Key
  •  West of the Ochlockonee River westward to Indian Pass  

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  •  South of the Middle of Longboat Key to Chokoloskee, Florida
  • West of the Ochlockonee River westward to Indian Pass  

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • Lower Florida Keys west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge
  • Sebastian Inlet, Florida northward to Altamaha Sound, Georgia

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Englewood northward to the Ochlockonee River, including Tampa Bay  

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

  • Chokoloskee northward to Englewood, including Charlotte Harbour
  • Ochlockonee River to Indian Pass Florida
  • Mouth of the St. Mary's River to Altamaha Sound Georgia  

Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area in western Cuba on Monday.

Gov. DeSantis on preparations for Idalia 33:38

Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by late Tuesday or Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by Tuesday.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the Dry Tortugas beginning late Monday and within the tropical storm watch area along the Florida Gulf coast on Tuesday.

Portions of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia, and the eastern Carolinas could see 4 to 8 inches of rain from Tuesday into Thursday. Isolated higher totals of 12 inches are possible, primarily near landfall in northern Florida.

Along the state's upper west coast, a peak storm surge could be from 7 to 11 feet. Tampa could see a storm surge of 4 - 7 feet while Keys could see 1 to 2 feet of surge.

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