Tropical Depression Ten has strengthened to Tropical Storm Idalia with maximum sustained wind speeds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It could become a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon and make landfall in Florida as early as Wednesday.
The storm is currently located 80 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and is moving slowly at 2 mph to the east.
Idalia is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to parts of the Yucatán Peninsula and extreme western Cuba today, resulting in tropical storm warnings.
The storm is forecast to “strengthen during the next few days and could become a hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, bringing a potential of dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, and strong winds to portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of this week,” the hurricane center said.
Hurricane hunters are probing Idalia for data as the system intensifies.
There is a “notable risk of rapid intensification” as the storm moves through the extremely warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane center noted. Rapid intensification occurs when the maximum sustained winds of a storm increase by 35 mph or more in a 24-hour period.
Widespread rainfall totals of 4-6 inches are expected from Tallahassee to the Outer Banks, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches possible.
Life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds are expected in Florida as early as Tuesday. The bulk of the storm is forecast to move over parts of the Southeast on Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to “just heed the warnings of your local officials” as the state prepares for Idalia’s arrival.
The governor said the storm is expected to become a hurricane late Tuesday afternoon and landfall is expected Wednesday along the Big Bend region, noting the storm could become a Category 2 hurricane.
“Our emergency operations center here in Tallahassee will go to a Level 1, 24-hour around the clock,” starting at 7 a.m. ET Monday, DeSantis said.
In preparation, 1,100 National Guardsmen have been mobilized and they have access to high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft for rescue and recovery efforts, DeSantis said.
According to the governor, power companies will start staging personnel on Monday.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the storm and will continue to receive regular updates as the system heads toward the United States, a White House official told CNN.
Who should pay attention? Anyone living in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Cuba and the northern Gulf and Florida coast should monitor the forecast in the coming days. The direction and strength of the upper-level steering winds around this system will dictate where it will move and how quickly.
DeSantis issued an executive order Saturday declaring a state of emergency for 33 counties ahead of the potential inclement weather. “The Governor and the Florida Division of Emergency Management are taking timely precautions to ensure Florida’s communities, infrastructure and resources are prepared, including those communities that are still recovering following Hurricane Ian,” reads a news release announcing the executive order.
When could it affect the US? By Monday, the system will likely enter the Gulf of Mexico, and move toward Florida. It could become a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon and hit the western coast of the Florida Peninsula by Wednesday. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the storm and will continue to receive regular updates as it heads toward the United States, a White House official told CNN.
How strong could it get? It’s still too soon to tell how strong this system could get or how fast it could strengthen. But it will be tracking through the warmest waters in the entire Atlantic basin – a vast source of energy for a developing storm. Exceptionally warm water can provide storms the fuel needed to strengthen and sometimes undergo rapid intensification.
Sea surface temperatures are record warm in the Gulf of Mexico and extremely high across the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Water temperatures need to be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit to sustain tropical development, and portions of the Caribbean and Gulf are well above the threshold.
A hurdle to development: Warm water isn’t the only factor at play. The tropical system would also need upper-level winds to cooperate. High wind shear – the wind’s change in direction or speed with altitude – can tear a developing storm apart.
How much wind shear this potential system faces is a critical factor in its formation and final strength. One forecast model shows more wind shear, limiting its development. Another shows less wind shear, allowing the system to develop.
Either way, wind shear may decrease for a time early next week across the far northern Caribbean and eastern Gulf of Mexico, allowing any system that forms to hold together.
Meanwhile, out in the central Atlantic, what was Tropical Storm Franklin strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, according to a Sunday update from the National Hurricane Center. This was confirmed via aircraft reconnaissance by the NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunters.
Hurricane Franklin is currently located 575 miles south of Bermuda and is moving relatively slowly at 8 miles per hour toward the north-northwest.
“Steady strengthening is forecast, and Franklin could become a major hurricane early next week,” said the center in its update. A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or higher with winds above 111 mph.
“Swells generated by Franklin are expected to begin affecting Bermuda by Sunday night,” the hurricane center said, noting, “these swells are also likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions late this weekend into early next week along portions of the East Coast of the United States.”
Small variations in Franklin’s track through the weekend will determine exactly how close it gets to Bermuda when it makes its closest pass Monday and Monday night.
Franklin’s winds and rainfall will extend beyond its center. Tropical-storm-force wind gusts are possible across Bermuda early next week as Franklin makes its closest approach. A few showers and thunderstorms are also possible across Bermuda as Franklin passes.