August 29, 2023 - Hurricane Idalia forecast to become extremely dangerous Category 4 storm

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell, Amir Vera, Elizabeth Wolfe and Liz Enochs, CNN

Updated 12:12 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023
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11:38 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Idalia could be a once-in-a-lifetime event for Tampa and parts of Florida Gulf Coast

From CNN’s Eric Zerkel and Brandon Miller

Hurricane Idalia is seen in this satellite image taken at 11:15am ET on Tuesday.
Hurricane Idalia is seen in this satellite image taken at 11:15am ET on Tuesday. NOAA

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."

11:20 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Tampa-area residents urged to stay away from water through Wednesday as state braces for Idalia

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Hillsborough County, Florida, officials urged residents Tuesday to prepare for Hurricane Idalia and to move away from the water.

The county is located on the central western coast of Florida and includes the city of Tampa.

Tampa-area "residents must understand ... the storm surge may be delayed through Wednesday," according to Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley. The storm surge threat is high with Hurricane Idalia — up to 7 feet, he added.

"While it may look nice outside, when the rain ends the threat has not passed," he warned.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies are continuing to help residents in Zone A evacuate before they start closing roads, officials said.

"There's going to be flooding," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, adding that there will be about four to six inches of rain in a short amount of time, and King Tide, along with four to seven feet storm surge.

"That could change in a moment's notice with this uncertain storm," said the sheriff.

"This isn't the time to be a risk taker," said the sheriff. "Hide from wind, run from water."

12:03 p.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Hurricane Idalia growing stronger, with landfall intensity increasing

From CNN meteorologists Mary Gilbert and Brandon Miller

Hurricane Idalia gained additional strength Tuesday morning and now has maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with stronger wind gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest update.

Idalia remains a Category 1 hurricane for now, but it is expected to undergo rapid intensification and become an extremely dangerous Category 3 hurricane before landfall on Wednesday. The intensity on Wednesday morning just before landfall has increased in the forecast up to 125 mph, only 5 mph below Category 4 strength.

Idalia is located about 275 miles south-southwest of Tampa, Florida, and is moving northward at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles.

Landfall is still expected in the Big Bend area of Florida near Steinhatchee on Wednesday morning.

10:39 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Officials in Florida's Dixie County are going door to door ahead of storm  

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers

Officials in a small county in Florida's big bend are going door to door ahead of the storm to caution residents.

“We just want everybody to really go to a shelter or evacuate out of the county to another state,” Mandy Lemmermen, public information officer for Dixie County told CNN’s News Central.  

The county is currently going door to door to inform residents and take a census of who is staying. The county is also asking for residents to secure items that may go airborne during the storm. 

“Don’t take this lightly,” Lemmermen added. “If the track stays the same if we see the storm surge that they are predicting, it will be very devastating for our little county,”  

Dixie County schools already announced closure today and tomorrow.  

Dixie County is located in Florida’s big bend due west of Gainsville. The county has a population of just over 17,000 people according to the U.S. Census.  

10:24 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

North Carolina declares state of emergency ahead of Idalia 

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers 

North Carolina has declared a state of emergency ahead of the possible impact of Idalia, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a release. 

“Idalia is expected to bring several hazards to North Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday, with the risk of flooding from heavy rain particularly in Southeast North Carolina,” the release added. 

“We are continuing to monitor Idalia’s course and its potential impacts on our state and it’s critical to make sure we are fully prepared”, Gov. Cooper said in the release. 

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Will Ray said the state is "working together with our local jurisdictions to ensure we have necessary resources staged to support emergency response needs."

10:20 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Florida Gators football team changes travel plans because of Hurricane Idalia

From CNN's Jillian Martin

The University of Florida's football team, the Florida Gators, announced a change in its travel plans because of Hurricane Idalia.

The Gators, who are scheduled to face No. 14 Utah in their season opener on Thursday, will now leave a day earlier, flying to Dallas on Tuesday. The team will stay in Dallas overnight and then fly to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, arriving in Utah as originally scheduled.

The University of Florida campus in Gainesville is closed Tuesday starting at noon ET and will be closed Wednesday.

10:14 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Amtrak is canceling and shortening several train routes ahead of Hurricane Idalia

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Amtrak is canceling several trains and modifying routes in advance of Hurricane Idalia. 

The rail line has so far canceled 12 East Coast routes on Tuesday and Wednesday that originate in or terminate in the Orlando and Miami areas. Those routes are the Auto Train, Silver Star, and Silver Meteor. 

Amtrak has also shortened Palmetto routes on Tuesday and Wednesday. That route – which typically runs from New York to Savannah, Georgia – will go only as far south as Washington, D.C. 

Amtrak called the measures “a safety precaution for customers and employees.”

10:05 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Idalia's damaging winds will reach more than 100 miles inland

From CNN Meteorologist Mary Gilbert

Idalia's wind field will expand as the storm strengthens today, meaning the storm's wind and rain will be felt well beyond the hurricane’s center.

The storm's wind field is a measure of how big Idalia is and captures how far tropical-storm-force (39 to 73 mph) and hurricane-force (74 mph-plus) winds reach from its center.  

Idalia’s hurricane-force winds will extend up to 23 miles east of its center as it closes in on the Florida coastline Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. The cyclone’s tropical storm-force winds will reach between 100 and 160 miles east of its center during the same timeframe. 

To put that distance in perspective: 

  • Hurricane-force winds will reach a distance equivalent to traveling from Tampa, Florida, to Clearwater, Florida
  • Tropical storm-force winds will reach a distance equivalent to traveling the two hours from Orlando to Jacksonville. 

When Idalia makes landfall Wednesday morning, portions of interior Florida up to 160 miles from the coast will encounter tropical-storm-force winds. Any locations closer to the storm’s center will bear the brunt of the hurricane’s strongest winds. 

10:22 a.m. ET, August 29, 2023

Gov. DeSantis suspends tolls in several counties as he urges residents to finalize storm prep and evacuations

From CNN’s Melissa Alonso


Vinell Chambers, left, and Antonio Floyd fill sandbags in Pinellas Park, Florida, on Tuesday.
Vinell Chambers, left, and Antonio Floyd fill sandbags in Pinellas Park, Florida, on Tuesday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday cautioned "everybody on that Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay up until Northwest Florida" to "remain vigilant" as Hurricane Idalia approaches.

"You still have time this morning to be able to make your final preparations ... but you got to do that now," DeSantis said at the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee. 

"Even if your community is not in the forecast, it does not mean you're in the clear," said Kevin Guthrie, the state’s emergency operations director.

"You do not have to leave the state," the governor said, adding that anyone evacuating their home should "get to higher ground in a safe structure you can ride the storm out there and go back to your home," said DeSantis.  

Gov. DeSantis announced the following details “to make these evacuations easier on families:”

  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) were instructed to "waive tolls in Citrus, Hernando Hillsborough, Lake, Pasco, Pinellas and Sumter counties” as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
  • As wind becomes stronger later today and into the night, FDOT will coordinate with local law enforcement to close bridges once speeds reach in excess of 40 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, 42 school districts have announced school closures over the next two days along with 16 state colleges and seven Florida universities, DeSantis said.