Idalia's forecast landfall strength and storm surge levels could reach once-in-a-lifetime levels along parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Idalia is forecast to make landfall as a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger), bringing a potential storm surge of 10 to 15 feet to the Big Bend area and 4 to 7 feet to the Tampa Bay area.
Anything greater than 4 feet of storm surge inundation in the Tampa Bay area would set a new record there. Six feet of surge inundation would set a record in Cedar Key on the southern side of the Big Bend.
While other storms, like Hurricane Ian, have produced higher storm surge, these levels would be unprecedented for this part of the Florida Gulf Coast.
The storm's strength would also be a rare event for the Big Bend.
"This has the makings of an unprecedented event for this part of the state," the National Weather Service in Tallahassee said. “To put this system into the historical context, there are NO major hurricanes in the historical dataset going back to 1851 that have tracked into Apalachee Bay. None. Don’t mess around with this one.”
Idalia may track into the Apalachee Bay — an inlet that's part of Florida's broader Big Bend — as a Category 3 storm, becoming the first to do so.
Only two major hurricanes on record have made landfall within 60 miles of Cedar Key: 1950’s Hurricane Easy and an unnamed hurricane in 1896, according to data from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
"A major hurricane for any location is in itself a rare event," NHC deputy director Jamie Rhome told CNN. "So for any location, a major hurricane in itself is a rare event, which for most individuals, probably only occurs once-in-a-lifetime."