Our live coverage of Hurricane Idalia has moved here.
Hurricane Idalia is now expected to slam into Florida as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm when it makes landfall early Wednesday, according to an 11 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
At the time of the advisory, Idalia was churning with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph — just shy of becoming a Category 3.
"Satellite and NWS radar imagery show that Idalia is becoming increasingly more organized," the hurricane center warned.
"There is the potential for destructive, life-threatening winds where the core of Idalia moves onshore in the Big Bend region," the hurricane center said.
Hurricane Idalia continues to strengthen with maximum sustained winds speeds of 110 mph, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center at 10 pm EDT.
Idalia is now only 1 mph away from reaching Category 3 status, which has a minimum threshold for wind speeds of 111 mph.
The National Hurricane Center is now issuing hourly updates on Idalia as it approaches landfall Wednesday morning.
The owner of a marina in Florida's gulf coast town of Steinhatchee told CNN he is choosing to stay put despite local evacuation orders.
“We’re all worried and that’s why we’re staying here -- to see if there’s anything we can do to protect what we have,” Chase Norwood, owner of Chase-N-Fish Charters at Sea Hag Marina, told CNN Tuesday night.
Norwood said the marina is his family's livelihood, leaving him determined to preserve it as much as possible.
They said they have done all they can to prepare for the incoming storm, including boarding up the marina and moving equipment to higher ground. He is hoping floodwaters and storm surge are less severe than expected.
Norwood’s sister, who is pregnant and could give birth any day now, has evacuated the area and gone to Gainesville, he said.
Last year, Norwood helped with storm damage in Fort Meyers after Hurricane Ian hit the area.
“We saw stuff we didn’t know a storm could do and it was an eye-opener,” he said.
A tornado watch is now in effect for more than 7 million people across central and western Florida, including Tampa, until 6:00 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Rain bands from Hurricane Idalia bring the threat for wind gusts of up to 75 mph, marble-sized hail and a few tornadoes overnight as well as into the early morning hours.
Weak and short-lived tornadoes are often associated with the outer bands of landfalling tropical systems.
As parts of Florida prepare for the impact of Hurricane Idalia, more residents have stayed than have evacuated in Steinhatchee, an evacuee told CNN.
Lori Leigh Batts-Bennett has already evacuated her condo in Steinhatchee to Jacksonville, Florida and worries for those that stayed behind. Steinhatchee is about 70 miles west of Gainseville.
“Some have that mentality of ‘I’m going to stay here and take care of my own,’” Batts-Bennett told CNN. “Once people wake up they’re going to be paralyzed with what they see.”
The town does not have the infrastructure to handle these storms, Batts-Bennett explained on the brink of tears. She said she and others have started forming plans for how to help tomorrow when it’s safe, mentioning they have people with air boats on standby.
“I fear that if this is catastrophic, the people that make Steinhatchee will not be able to be in Steinhatchee because they won’t be able to rebuild,” she said.
“The landscape of Steinhatchee will be changed forever,” she added.
Dave Gentry, a Clearwater Beach resident, was joined by his son and a friend Tuesday evening, hours before the expected landfall of Hurricane Idalia.
“We know the storm is coming a little bit later this evening. We live about 5 miles up the street. We’re going to be here for 20, 30 minutes, watch the waves come in and as the tide comes in, off we go,” Gentry said.
Despite the warnings to evacuate, Gentry said his home is on high ground and that he believes there will be no significant damage to his immediate area.
Pinellas County has a mandatory evacuation for Zone A and all mobile home residents in effect. The county covers the coastal cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Clearwater Beach was empty in the early evening except for a few swimmers and a lone surfer, who braved the waves as the wind picked up.
It is approximately 2.5 miles long and sits along the barrier island along the Gulf. Much of the beach is lined with hotel and residential properties.
For hours on Tuesday, hotel workers lined sandbags along the edge of the beach and along the doors to hotel rooms where water could potentially enter.
Clearwater is forecast to see a storm surge between 4-7 feet.
Ryan Marc, who lives in nearby Palm Harbor said he’s prepared to ride out the storm in town.
“Safety first, we don’t want to lose any lives. Things can be replaced, we’ve all been through it at least once in our lives. It is what it is. Nature always wins,” Marc said.
The National Hurricane Center has released its 8 p.m. ET hurricane advisory ahead of Hurricane Idalia's expected touchdown Wednesday in Florida before it churns through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and heads out over the Atlantic.
Here are some of the latest watches and warnings:
- Englewood northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay is under a storm surge warning, which means that "there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising moving inland from the coastline," according to the advisory.
- Dry Tortugas, Chokoloskee northward to the middle of Longboat Key, west of Indian Pass to Mexico beach and the Sebastian Inlet in Florida to Surf City North Carolina are under tropical storm warnings, which indicates that "tropical storm conditions are expected," according to the National Hurricane Center.
- Bonita Beach northward to Englewood, "the mouth" of the St. Mary's River to South Santee River in South Carolina, the Beaufort Inlet to Drum Inlet in North Carolina as well as the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers in North Carolina are under storm surge watches. That means storm surge conditions could be seen over the next 48 hours, the advisory explained.
- Portions of St. Mary's River to Edisto Beach South Carolina are under a hurricane watch, which means "hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area," the hurricane center says.
- The Lower Florida Keys west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge, north of Surf City North Carolina to the North Carolina and Virginia border as well as Pamlico and Abemarle Sounds are under tropical storm watches. This means tropical storm conditions could be seen within 48 hours, the advisory says.
The National Hurricane Center noted that "additional warnings will likely be required tonight or on Wednesday."
This is Idalia's forecasted path as of 8 p.m. ET.
Roughly, 4,000 people incarcerated in Florida were evacuated or relocated to facilities better equipped to handle the storm, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Corrections.
“Multiple satellite facilities, community work release centers and work camps were evacuated in an abundance of caution. Inmates were relocated to larger main units (parent facilities), better equipped to weather the storm,” according to the release.
The following facilities have been evacuated:
- Bradenton Bridge
- Bridges of Cocoa
- Bridges of Jacksonville
- Bridges of Lake City
- Bridges of Orlando
- Bridges of Santa Fe
- Cross City Work Camp
- Dayton Beach CRC
- Desoto Work Camp
- Ft. Pierce CRC
- Hardee Work Camp
- Hernando CI
- Jacksonville Bridges
- Kissimmee CRC
- Lancaster Work Camp
- Largo Road Prison
- Madison Work Camp
- Miami North CRC
- Opa Locka CRC
- Orlando Bridge
- Orlando CRC
- Panama City CRC
- Reality House
- Re-entry of Ocala
- Shisha House
- St. Pete CRC
- Suncoast CRC
- TTH Bartow
- TTH Dinsmore
- TTH Kissimmee
- TTH Tarpon Springs
- Tallahassee CRC
- Tomoka CRC
- Tomoka Work Camp
- Turning Point