Tropical Storm Idalia threatens Florida, may strengthen
Tropical Storm Idalia formed Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico, posing a threat to Florida as forecasters predict it could strengthen into a hurricane this week, the National Hurricane Center said.
Idalia is expected to become a hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico and then turn northeast toward the west coast of Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. In an advisory Sunday, forecasters said this could bring an increased risk of storm surges and hurricane-force winds along portions of Florida’s west coast and the Florida Panhandle starting as early as Tuesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order Saturday declaring a state of emergency for the state’s Gulf Coast in preparation for the storm. In a briefing Sunday, DeSantis said there is still uncertainty in the forecast.
“This thing hasn’t even gotten to Cuba, and the water in the Gulf is very, very warm, and so that will provide some fuel for this thing to pick up some more speed,” DeSantis said.
The National Hurricane Center issued a storm surge watch for the Gulf Coast of Florida from Chokoloskee to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay, while a hurricane watch was issued from Englewood to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.
While it is too early to specify the exact location of where to expect the storm’s impact, forecasters said residents along parts of the west coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle and parts of the southeast U.S. can expect scattered flash and urban flooding by Tuesday into Thursday.
Jamie Rhome, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Associated Press parts of Florida’s west coast are at a risk of seawater surging onto land and flooding communities.
“So it will not take a strong system or a direct hit to produce significant storm surge,” he told The Associated Press. “So if you’re anywhere along the Florida Peninsula, western Florida Peninsula, so let’s say from about Fort Myers northward to the Panhandle, you’ve really got to be paying attention.”
Eastern Yucatan and western Cuba are expected to see heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Idalia as well, with the possibility of flash flooding and landslides across western Cuba. A Tropical Storm warning is currently in effect for the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Río Lagartos in Mexico, including Cozumel, and the Pinar del Rio Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said.