Idalia on track to hit Florida as a category 3 hurricane

Tropical storm Idalia is now forecast to become a category 3 major hurricane before it reaches the Gulf of Florida, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) has advised.

The storm was earlier expected to intensify to category 2 as it inches closer to land, but the fact it has lingered over warmer waters near the coast has made the storm stronger.

The risk “continues to increase for life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane force winds”, the NHC said.

“Idalia has been moving erratically and is nearly stationary,” the NHC added. “A motion toward the north-northeast and north is expected to begin later today, bringing the center of Idalia over the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico by tonight.”

Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, a hurricane watch has been issued from Englewood to India Pass, including Tampa Bay, according to the NHC. A tropical storm warning is also in place for the Dry Tortugas, Florida, while a tropical storm watch has been issued for the Lower Florida Keys west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge.

“It should be emphasized that only a small deviation in the track could cause a big change in Idalia’s landfall location in Florida due to the paralleling track to the west coast of the state,” the NHC noted.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the Dry Tortugas and along the Florida Gulf Coast.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management urged people under a storm surge threat to have evacuation plans set, in case an evacuation order is issued.

Over the weekend, Florida’s Governor DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 33 Florida counties

“If you are in the path of this storm, you should expect power outages, so please prepare for that,” DeSantis said during a Sunday briefing with Florida’s Division of Emergency Management.

The governor said power company workers were preparing ahead of the storm and that 1,100 members of the National Guard were mobilised with 2,400 high-water vehicles and a dozen aircraft for rescue and recovery efforts.