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Idalia nearing hurricane status, likely to make landfall as a major hurricane in Florida

Florida prepares for Idalia

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Concerns are growing for the Florida coastline as Idalia continues to strengthen.

As of the 5 p.m. Monday advisory, Tropical Storm Idalia was located near the western tip of Cuba with maximum winds of 70 mph and a minimum pressure of 987 millibars.

The 74 mph winds would qualify as a Category 1 hurricane.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Franklin is a strong Category 4 hurricane that will track into the open Atlantic Ocean.

As the storm enters the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday morning, rapid intensification may be possible all the way until landfall early Wednesday with extremely warm water ahead of the system.

Upper-level wind shear will also be weaker in this eastern part of the gulf. A trough will be steering the system into Florida’s west coast. The National Hurricane Center forecast calls for the storm to have maximum winds of 120 mph early Wednesday morning with additional strengthening possible.

Storm surge threat

Storm surge will be a huge concern with this system, especially as the system likely becomes a major hurricane. Wherever the center passes, just off to the southeast will be the worst of the surge with onshore flow. Currently, the worst of the storm surge (7-11 feet) is expected to be in the “Big Bend” of the western Florida coastline. This could easily change based on the exact track of the center of Idalia.

Tampa and St. Petersburg will be facing on-shore flow through the entire system. Some of these spots have a forecasted storm surge of 4 to 7 feet. Again these numbers could easily increase if Idalia takes a more rightward track in the cone of uncertainty.

Historically, Tampa, Florida, is prone to storm surge due to shallow water and the nature of the bay itself. However, it has been a long time since a hurricane directed its worst storm surge and onshore wind direction in this area.