Residents of Florida are under a hurricane watch, as the major tropical storm, called Idalia, barrels up the Gulf Coast and is expected to make landfall as a potentially life-threatening Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane warnings have been issued from just north of Sarasota through Tampa to coastal areas south of Tallahassee although there is a high risk for dangerous rip currents along the New Jersey beaches, according to the National Weather Service.
Neither Hurricane Idalia nor Hurricane Franklin is expected to hit the Jersey shore directly, but there is potential for coastal flooding issues.
According to the National Hurricane Center, “Franklin is moving toward the north-northeast near 12 mph (19 km/h). A north-northeastward to northeastward motion with a faster forward speed is expected during the next few days. On the forecast track, the center of Franklin is expected to pass to the northwest of Bermuda on Wednesday.”
“Maximum sustained winds are near 125 mph (200 km/h) with higher gusts. Franklin is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Steady weakening is forecast during the next several days, but Franklin will remain a hurricane through late this week,” the agency said. “Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles (240 km). NOAA Buoy 41048 west of Bermuda recently reported a sustained wind of 43 mph (69 km/h) and a gust of 59 mph (95 km/h).”
The storm is projected to come ashore between Tampa Bay and the eastern Florida Panhandle, unleashing “a life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds,” according to the National Hurricane Center. The greatest risk is in the Big Bend region of Florida, particularly overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning.
Forty-six counties — 70 percent of the state — were under the governor’s state of emergency as of Monday afternoon.
“If you’re in a vulnerable area, you evacuate to higher ground in a safe structure,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a news conference Monday afternoon. “A lot of times you don’t even need to leave your county.”
The storm surge — or rise in seawater above normally dry land at the coast — could reach 12 feet in the hardest-hit areas. Florida’s Big Bend area could see the biggest surge and is particularly vulnerable because of the adjacent gently sloping sea floor, which makes it easy for water to pile up along the coast and for the surge to penetrate miles inland.
The current forecast calls for a surge of 4 to 7 feet around Tampa if the peak surge coincides with high tide, which would be its highest on record.
Tides will be higher than normal when the storm comes ashore because of this week’s super blue moon.
A rare blue supermoon with an intensified gravitational pull could make tides higher than normal on Wednesday night, just as Hurricane Idalia is expected to make landfall on Florida’s west coast, exacerbating flooding from the storm.
Idalia is expected to make tidal flooding worse not only in Florida, but Brian Haines, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Charleston, has been warning residents that parts of Georgia and South Carolina could be underwater by Wednesday night.
DeSantis emphasized that many of those living in the storm’s path will lose electricity for an extended period, which is why the state will position utility workers on Monday to respond.
The Hurricane Center cautioned that a “life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds” are becoming “increasingly likely.”
Forecasters see two key ingredients that will help the storm gain strength:
- Water temperatures in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are in the upper 80s to near 90 degrees, several degrees above average and in record territory, which will fuel intensification.
- An approaching dip in the jet stream over the eastern United States will effectively evacuate air at high altitudes away from Idalia, allowing it to ingest more warm, humid air from below and continue to strengthen — perhaps right up until the point of landfall.