Hurricane Idalia to hit Florida as a Category 3 storm: Live updates

Reporters could be seen wading through floodwaters inundating downtown Tarpon Springs in the early hours this morning.

Image: Hurricane Idalia Slams Into Florida's Gulf Coast
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Idalia will be biggest storm to hit Tallahassee in city’s history, mayor says

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey warned Idalia would be the biggest storm to hit the city in the history of the Floridian capital.

“The wind and the trees and the powerlines,” topped the list of concerns for the city, Dailey told NBC’s Willie Geist, adding that workers had been preparing for the storm for a week.

“Stay home and stay in place,” Dailey warned residents.

Northern eyewall of Idalia now onshore

The northern eyewall of Idalia is now onshore.

The center of the hurricane is expected to cross the coast and make landfall by around 8 a.m. ET.

Tornadoes could hit Sarasota, Tampa, Jacksonville: meteorologist

Idalia could spawn tornadoes as far south as Tampa and Sarasota, east to Jacksonville and north to the Georgia coast later today, NBC News Meteorologist Bill Karins warned.

Hurricane downgraded to Category 3

Hurricane Idalia has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph, with higher gusts.

The system is still expected to hit Florida’s Big Bend as a major hurricane.

DeSantis said the hurricane was expected to make landfall by around 8 a.m. ET.

More than a thousand flights canceled or delayed

Air travel has been severely disrupted with more than a thousand total flights into and out of the U.S. having already been canceled or delayed, according to the tracking site FlightAware.

Hurricane Idalia intensified Tuesday as it churned toward the west coast of Florida, triggering mass evacuation orders and flood alerts as authorities warned of life-threatening ocean surge and catastrophic destruction when the storm rages ashore early Wednesday.
Cancelled flights at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday.Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo / AFP – Getty Images

In total, 790 flights into, or out of the U.S. have been canceled and 523 have been delayed with Tampa International Airport the worst affected, FlightAware said on its website.

Not all heeded warning to evacuate affected areas, governor says

DeSantis noted that not all residents in counties under evacuation orders have heeded calls to leave areas in Idalia’s path.

“Most people did heed the warning,” he said, but the governor said not all followed evacuation orders.

Hurricane Idalia
Flooding in Madeira Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night.Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

The governor said rescue efforts and work to restore power to those out would be underway in the storm’s wake.

‘Not my concern’ that Trump hasn’t commented on storm: DeSantis

DeSantis said it was “not my concern” that Donald Trump, his rival for the GOP presidential nomination, had not commented on the storm as it threatened Florida, the former president’s home.

“My concern is protecting the people of Florida,” he said in the morning news conference.

If you’re in the storm’s path, time to ‘hunker down,’ DeSantis says

Counties in the storm’s path must “hunker down,” DeSantis said.

“If you’re in the path of where the eyewall’s going at this point, you’ve gotta hunker down,” the Florida governor said in this morning’s news conference.

Image: Florida's Gulf Coast Prepares For Arrival Of Hurricane Idalia
An empty highway in St. Petersburg, Fla., early Wednesday. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Leon County Commissioner Christian Caban also urged residents impacted by the storm to “shelter in place.”

Video of overnight storm surge in Cedar Key

Lights briefly go out during DeSantis news conference

PERRY, Florida — The lights briefly went out during DeSantis’ news conference this morning.

They appeared to go out for a moment, before flickering back on.

“And there we go with our power here,” DeSantis said, before noting: “We’re back.”

Hurricane could make landfall in next hour and a half, DeSantis said

Hurricane Idalia could make landfall as early as in the next hour and a half, DeSantis said.

The storm would probably hit by 8 a.m., DeSantis said, and warned residents not to do anything “dumb” at this point.


“If you’re inside, just hunker down until it gets past ya,” he said, warning that the expected storm surge associated with the hurricane would be “very dangerous.”

Do not drive through flooded streets, assume all downed power lines are ‘hot and live’: DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis has warned Florida residents not to drive through flooded streets and to assume that all downed power lines are still “hot and live.”

Speaking at a news conference at 6:30 a.m. ET, the Florida governor said people should stay alert for hazards in the “immediate aftermath of the storm.”

Already, around 54,000 utility customers were without power, he said. He said efforts to restore power would be underway.

Hurricane Idalia barrels closer toward Florida’s Big Bend

Hurricane Idalia continues to barrel towards Florida’s Big Bend, with the system about 55 miles west northwest of Cedar Key as of 6 a.m. ET.

The hurricane continued to have maximum sustained winds of about 130 mph, with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said in an update.

Flooding in Pinellas County as Idalia nears


First responders in Pinellas County have warned any residents in the area to stay sheltered and stay off the roads as images show cars flooded on the streets.

Vehicles could be seen partially submerged in water on a flooded street in photos from the city of St. Petersburg early this morning.

Hurricane Idalia Slams Into Florida's Gulf Coast
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Pinellas County’s Department of Emergency Management said flooding was being reported on roadways throughout coastal areas of the county as winds continued to gust from 40 mph to 60 mph.

“Some traffic signals have been reported to be out. All residents are advised to stay off the roads and remain sheltered,” it said.

Evacuation orders were issued in Pinellas County ahead of Idalia’s arrival.

‘Destructive life-threatening winds’ expected onshore, along with strong winds inland

“Destructive life-threatening winds” are expected where the core of Idalia moves onshore in the Big Bend region this morning, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Strong winds will also spread inland across portions of northern Florida and southern Georgia near the track of the center of Idalia where Hurricane Warnings are in effect,” the hurricane center said in its 5 a.m. ET update.

Catastrophic and life-threatening storm surge likely along Florida Gulf Coast

Catastrophic and life-threatening storm surge inundation is likely along parts of the Florida Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said early this morning as Idalia nears.

Catastrophic impacts from storm surge inundation of 12 to 16 feet above ground level and destructive waves were expected somewhere between the Wakulla/Jefferson County line and Yankeetown, the hurricane center said in a 5 a.m. ET update.

Life-threatening storm surge inundation was also likely elsewhere along parts of the Florida Gulf Coast, where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect, it said. Residents have been warned to follow advice given by officials.

The small eye of Idalia that everyone wants to avoid

DeSantis to hold news conference at 6:30 a.m. ET

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will hold a news conference on Idalia at 6:30 a.m. ET.

The governor will be joined by Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, Florida Major General John D. Haass, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Doug Schofield and Leon County Commissioner Christian Caban, according to a news release.

On the ground in Perry, Florida as Idalia nears

PERRY, Florida — As Idalia approaches, winds are picking up here but we still have power.

Police say they won’t respond to calls once winds reach 45 miles per hour.

Taylor County imposed a curfew overnight after closing its emergency shelters, busing residents to nearby Leon County. The Taylor County sheriff’s office is warning of “great potential for death and catastrophic devastation.”

The national weather service in Tallahassee says there have been no major hurricanes going back to 1851 that have tracked into Apalachee Bay. “This has the making of an unprecedented event for this part of the state.”

More than 50,000 utility customers without power in Florida

More than 50,000 utility customers were without power in Florida as of 5 a.m. ET as Idalia barreled toward the Big Bend region, according to online outage tracker PowerOutage.us.

Further outages are expected as the Category 4 hurricane makes landfall.

Hurricane Idalia becomes Category 4 storm

Hurricane Idalia has strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it barrels towards Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The storm is expected to make landfall along the coast of Florida’s Big Bend region, where catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds are expected.

As of around 5 a.m. ET, the hurricane was about 60 miles west of Cedar Key and about 90 miles south of Tallahassee, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.

Some Cedar Key residents plan to ride out hurricane, despite evacuation orders

Some Cedar Key residents have reportedly chosen to ride out the hurricane, despite evacuation orders issued ahead of Idalia’s arrival.

Almost 900 residents were under mandatory orders to evacuate the island city, but some told NBC South Florida they planned to ride out the hurricane.

“I have a house on a high elevation sitting on top of a hill and I have a second floor and I have a boat tied up and ready to go,” one resident, Michael Bobbitt, told the outlet. “When the streets become waterways, I’m going to get out and about to see who I can get to to help.”

Traci Argraves said she had friends that planned to stay, but said she didn’t want to take her chances and would be staying at a hotel in Gainesville.

“We do have friends here that are staying, we have neighbors that are staying, I would like to see them still here,” she said.

Florida’s Big Bend to see ‘catastrophic’ storm surge, destructive winds

Florida’s Big Bend will soon face “catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds” as Hurricane Idalia continues to “rapidly intensify,” forecasters warned.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft showed that Idalia is quickly strengthening, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 125 mph with higher gusts as of around 4 a.m. ET.

As of that time, the hurricane was about 90 miles west southwest of Cedar Key in Levy County.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for residents and visitors of coastal areas of Levy County, including Cedar Key.

Live cam captures storm surge before going offline

A public live camera streaming footage of a beach on Boca Ciega Bay in the city of Gulfport appeared to show the effects of storm surge, with waves of water rushing toward the shore, before the camera went offline.

Within the span of minutes, the scene appeared to become more chaotic, with water beginning to lash at the camera before it suddenly went offline at around 4 a.m. ET.

Gulfport is in Pinellas County, which saw evacuation orders issued in advance of Idalia’s arrival.

What’s the difference between a Category 3 storm and a Category 4?

The National Hurricane Center considers any storm with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or higher a “major storm.” But even without that qualifier, any hurricane can be deadly and destructive.

Hurricanes are categorized on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, based on maximum sustained wind speed, which leads to different levels of damage.

Here’s how they break down:

  • Category 1: Wind speeds of 74 to 95 mph producing some damage
  • Category 2: Wind speeds of 96 to 110 mph producing extensive damage
  • Category 3: Wind speeds of 111 to 129 mph producing devastating damage
  • Category 4: Wind speeds of 130 to 156 mph producing catastrophic damage
  • Category 5: Wind speeds of 157 mph or higher producing catastrophic damage

Idalia could cut across parts of Georgia, South Carolina as a hurricane

Idalia was expected to continue to gain strength early this morning and then weaken over land, but not enough that it will lose its hurricane status, forecasters said.

On its path toward the Atlantic, the storm was expected to cut across parts of Georgia and possibly South Carolina still at hurricane-strength, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Idalia is likely to still be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia, and possibly when it reaches the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina late today,” the center said in its latest public advisory this morning.

The weakest sustained windspeed for hurricane status is 74 mph; lower than that and Idalia would return to a tropical storm.

Forecasters say parts of Georgia and the Carolinas could see as much as 12 inches of rain from the storm, and the risk of tornadoes was likely to shift from Florida into those states during the day.

Idalia now a Category 3 hurricane


Hurricane Idalia has been upgraded to a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, is classified as a major hurricane, with catastrophic storm surge and destructive winds expected in the Big Bend region.

The hurricane was about 100 miles southwest of Cedar Key and 175 miles south of Tallahassee, and it was moving at about 15 mph.

Idalia is expected to make landfall this morning as a Category 4 hurricane, according to the hurricane center.

Landfall is expected south of Perry along the coast of Florida’s Big Bend region, according to NBC News’ Weather and Climate Unit.

The Big Bend region could encounter a dangerous storm surge of 12 to 16 feet in parts of the area, according to the hurricane center.

Damaging storm surge could stretch up to 200 miles south into the Tampa area, according to the unit.

Water coming over the sea wall in Treasure Island

Flooding reported in St. Pete Beach

Idalia nearing Florida’s Big Bend

Idalia was nearing Florida’s Big Bend coast early this morning, with the storm estimated to be 160 miles south of Tallahassee at 1 a.m. ET.

The hurricane was moving north, almost parallel to the state’s west coast, at 16 mph, federal forecasters said.

The state capital is not right on the coast — about 25 miles could be shaved off that distance to measure Idalia’s path to the coastline.

The storm was also about 115 miles southwest of Cedar Key, in Levy County, where a mandatory evacuation order was issued yesterday.

The storm remained just below Category 3 strength, with sustained winds believed to be at 110 mph. Forecasters said it is likely to move up to Category 4 before it makes landfall sometime this morning.

In either category, Idalia jumps to “major hurricane” status and the destruction associated with categories 3 through 5.

Idalia expected to make landfall as Category 4

Idalia is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane by the time it makes landfall along Florida’s Big Bend region this morning, the National Hurricane Center said late last night.

A Category 4 storm brings with it the possibility of catastrophic damage, structural damage and uprooted trees and utility poles, the hurricane center says. It means some areas might not be habitable for weeks.

With sustained winds of 110 mph, the storm was 1 mph shy of Category 3 on its way to the more powerful Category 4 status, according to the National Hurricane Center.

People board up a window in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 29, 2023, as the city prepares for Hurricane Idalia.
People board up a window Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., as the city prepares for Hurricane Idalia. Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo / AFP via Getty Images

Sustained winds of 111 mph would put it at Category 3. Sustained winds of 130 or greater would make it a Category 4 storm. Either would mean a shift from hurricane to major hurricane, a status given at Category 3 and higher.

The hurricane was about 125 miles west of Tampa and gaining strength, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north at 18 mph and was expected to make landfall sometime in the morning.

Florida has people, fuel on standby to respond to post-storm needs

To prepare for Idalia, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the National Guard, and President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration.

DeSantis said the state had staged resources to be ready to respond throughout Florida, addressing power needs and threats to residents.

DeSantis said Florida was ready with 1.1 million gallons of fuel and nearly 30,000 workers who would help restore power. 

Florida’s Big Bend, the ‘Nature Coast,’ is in Idalia’s path

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida’s Big Bend is one of the last truly natural places in the state. It’s not Disney World; it’s not South Beach. This is where people go to hunt alligators, fish for tarpon and search for scallops in the shallow waters. Now it’s in the bull’s-eye of a major hurricane.

The Big Bend is where the peninsula merges into the Panhandle, just southeast of the capital, Tallahassee, and well north of metropolitan Tampa. Hurricane Idalia would be the first major storm to hit there since Hurricane Easy in 1950, according to the National Hurricane Center.

This is where people go to appreciate nature and be left alone.

“The counties of Florida’s Nature Coast believe that many people — our residents, and those who travel here from far away — think having a good time involves more than expensive restaurants, theme parks, and crowded beaches,” a website devoted to the region says.

Because of the unique shape of the Big Bend coastline, Idalia “is going to bring some pretty massive storm surge,” said Kristen Corbosiero, an atmospheric scientist at the State University of New York at Albany. “The water can get piled up in that bay. And then the winds of the storm come around, they go around counterclockwise, that’s going the same direction, the same shape of the bay, so that water can just get pushed in there.”

Hurricane Idalia tracker: Follow its path

Hurricane Idalia is headed for Florida’s Gulf Coast.

As of Tuesday night, Idalia was a Category 2 hurricane with wind speeds reaching 110 mph.

Forecasts show the storm strengthening to Category 4 before it makes landfall early today, with wind speeds capable of snapping trees, damaging houses and knocking out electricity

Follow the storm’s path here.

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