Tropical Storm Idalia expected to become hurricane

MIAMI — Tropical Storm Idalia strengthened Monday afternoon as it neared the western tip of Cuba and is expected to soon become a hurricane.

Idalia is forecast to become a major Category 3 storm before landfall late Tuesday into Wednesday. It is expected to make landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast sometime on Wednesday.

In the Carolinas, Severe Weather Center 9 Meteorologist Keith Monday says we could see rain from the storm, but the bigger rain days will stay well to our south.

The farther south Idalia stays, the lower the impacts will be in the Carolinas, Monday said.

Florida impacts

The National Hurricane Center warned of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida as soon as late Tuesday.

Heavy rainfall in western Cuba could produce flooding and landslides, forecasters said, and hurricane-force winds were expected later Monday.

At a Sunday afternoon briefing, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis noted that much uncertainty remains in the forecast.

“This thing hasn’t even gotten to Cuba yet, 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.

Large parts of the western coast of Florida are at risk of seawater surging onto land and flooding communities when a tropical storm or hurricane approaches. That part of Florida is very vulnerable to storm surges, Jamie Rhome, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, said Sunday.

“So it will not take a strong system or a direct hit to produce significant storm surge,” he said.

So far this year, the U.S. East Coast has been spared from cyclones. But in the West, Tropical Storm Hilary caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures earlier this month in Mexico, California, Nevada and points to the north.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(WATCH BELOW: Hurricane Hilary forms off Mexico’s Pacific coast as it heads north over the ocean)

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