August 30, 2023 - Idalia makes Florida landfall

By Elizabeth Wolfe, Liz Enochs, Leinz Vales, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:10 a.m. ET, August 31, 2023
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12:46 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Idalia expected to make landfall as "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane

From CNN Meteorologist Caitlin Kaiser

Storm clouds are seen building in the distance over a canal in Port Richey, Florida, on August 29.
Storm clouds are seen building in the distance over a canal in Port Richey, Florida, on August 29. Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA

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. 

Idalia is expected to inundate parts of Florida's Big Bend region with a "catastrophic" storm surge between 12 to 16 feet — higher than an average city bus, the agency said.

"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.

12:32 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Tornado watch is now in effect for Tampa and surrounding areas

From CNN’s Caitlin Kaiser

Sandbags in front of a house ahead of Hurricane Idalia in St. Petersburg, Florida, on August 29.
Sandbags in front of a house ahead of Hurricane Idalia in St. Petersburg, Florida, on August 29. Juan Manuel Barrero Bueno/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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.

9:17 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

4,000 people incarcerated in Florida have been relocated, corrections department says

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
12:21 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Tampa General and other area hospitals prepare for Idalia storm surge

From CNN’s Ella Nilsen

Workers set up a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida, on August 29, as the city prepares for Hurricane Idalia.
Workers set up a fence to prevent flooding at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida, on August 29, as the city prepares for Hurricane Idalia. Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo/AFP/Getty Images

Major hospitals in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area are preparing for a significant storm surge from Hurricane Idalia.

Tampa General Hospital – located in the Davis Islands neighborhood in a surge-prone area of the city — has gone as far as to construct a water-impermeable barrier around parts of its campus.

The more than 1,000-bed hospital is expected to be finished assembling the AquaFence barrier — which can withstand up to a 15-foot storm surge — around its vulnerable areas by the end of the day Tuesday, hospital spokesperson Karen Barrera told CNN in an email.

Tampa General will remain open for emergency care and is equipped with a central energy plant that is located 33 feet above sea level and can withstand the impact and flooding of a Category 5 hurricane, housing both electricity generators and boilers for hot water, Barrera said.

Barrera added the hospital has activated its incident command center to keep operating, and as a Level 1 trauma center, Tampa General “stands ready to meet the needs to patients throughout the state who require care after the storm has passed.”

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, a pediatric hospital in St. Petersburg, said it isn’t currently moving any patients, having built a new building in 2010 to withstand hurricane-force winds. 

Most of the hospital’s mechanical areas are on its fourth floor to protect from flooding, and the hospital is capable of having its own potable water and can power itself without being connected to the power grid, if needed, spokesperson Danielle Caci said in an email.

“We are a 259-bed hospital and the largest freestanding pediatric hospital in the area so (we) are prepared to take in patients in need of medical care,” Caci said. 

BayCare, a hospital system that owns 16 acute-care hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, also said it didn't anticipate any "operational changes” other than closing some ambulatory services.

“We have ‘hardened’ our facilities to be as prepared as possible for hurricane season,” said BayCare spokesperson Lisa Razler in an email to CNN, adding the hospitals aren’t moving patients at this time “and we don’t expect that to change.”

12:04 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Idalia is "likely to become a major hurricane soon," national hurricane center says

From CNN’s Caitlin Kaiser and Eric Zerkel

Hurricane Idalia has rapidly intensified over the exceptionally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico with current maximum winds of 105 mph, according to the 8 p.m. ET update from the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is still a Category 2 hurricane but nearing the Category 3 threshold for wind speeds, which is 111 mph.

Idalia is expected to strengthen more ahead of its landfall in Florida's Big Bend region Wednesday morning.

The National Hurricane Center had warned that rapid intensification was likely in this storm — a phenomenon that is becoming more common as ocean temperatures warm. In order to meet the definition, a storm’s sustained wind speeds must increase by at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less.

The hurricane’s rapid intensification was aided by the Gulf of Mexico’s extremely warm waters. It’s just one of the ways experts say is making hurricanes more dangerous, as warmer waters allow for storms to strengthen quicker.

This is Idalia's forecasted path as of 8 p.m. ET.

Storm tracker: See Idalia's path

12:01 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

"You really got to go now": Florida governor urges people in Big Bend to evacuate ahead of Idalia landfall

For people living in Florida's Big Bend region, now is the time to evacuate, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday evening. Hurricane Idalia is expected to hit the area as early as Wednesday morning, the latest forecasts show.

There will be a “significant, significant impact” on the Big Bend region, especially in low-lying and coastal areas.

“If you wait much longer, by the time we get in further into tonight the weather’s going to start getting nastier and nastier," DeSantis said.

“So you really got to go now,” DeSantis said, reiterating that “now’s the time.”

He warned that first responders will not be able to reach people who stay in evacuation zones until after the storm.

12:01 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

"Turn around, don’t drown”: Tampa police chief tells residents ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s arrival

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw warned residents Tuesday that storm surge and standing water continue to be a threat to the city, as the effects of Hurricane Idalia are already being felt up and down the Florida Gulf Coast.

“I was out on Bayshore today at 1:30, and it was dry — literally a half hour later there were portions of Bayshore that were already flooded. I witnessed for myself people driving in the water,” Bercaw said at a storm briefing Tuesday. “Don't be that person. Remember: Turn around, don't drown.  

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who also spoke at the briefing, warned residents that although the storm will be pushed out by morning, they should be prepared for the surge that will come in the afternoon. 

Castor said the King Tide will create a tidal surge that will move in around noon, and that it could continue until as late as 5 p.m. ET. King Tide is a term used to describe exceptionally higher than normal tidal cycles that typically occur during a new moon or a full moon when the moon makes its closest pass to the Earth, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.

Castor told residents not to return to their homes until they know what areas have been flooded.

12:01 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Bed and breakfast manager explains why she's staying in Cedar Key despite evacuation warnings

From CNN’s Sara Smart

A manager of a bed and breakfast business in Cedar Key, Florida, said she is staying in town despite evacuation warnings.

Heather Greenwood, the manager of Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, told CNN that while she’s concerned about the storm, she’s not going anywhere. Greenwood said she not only wanted to provide a place for news crews to stay but wanted to help others she knows are staying in town.

“I’m here and I'm available to help them as much as I can,” she said.

Greenwood said the house is at the highest point on the island and has been secured. “Being vigilant at this point is the main part,” Greenwood said.

She said she filled all of the bathtubs with water in preparation and stocked up on drinking water and food.

Power and water are being shut off for the area at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday as a precaution, according to Greenwood.

The Mayor of Cedar Keys Heath Davis earlier on Tuesday implored residents to leave ahead of Idalia.

12:01 a.m. ET, August 30, 2023

Supermoon will worsen Idalia's storm surge, hurricane official says

From CNN's Eric Zerkel, Ashley Strickland and Brandon Miller

This week’s supermoon is making matters worse for Florida's Gulf Coast by enhancing tides, which is expected to worsen Idalia's storm surge.

A supermoon is a full moon that is closer to Earth than normal, which makes it appear larger and brighter in the night sky. This week’s supermoon will be nearly 18,000 miles closer to Earth than its normal distance. This is why supermoons enhance ocean tides — the moon’s gravity has a stronger effect on the oceans.

"Surge and tide work together; they work hand-in-hand to produce the the ultimate flooding that might occur in a hurricane," Jamie Rhome, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN. "An elevated tide is like a starting point or a base. If the ocean is elevated already, then the surge can do that much more damage when it rides on top of it."

Up to 15 feet of surge is forecast in Florida's Big Bend, a figure Rhome said takes into account the full moon's influence on tides. Rhome said the supermoon would increase high tide by around a foot.

The high tide in Cedar Key, Florida — near where Idalia is expected to make landfall Wednesday morning — was already projected to hit its highest levels of the year, even before Idalia’s storm surge. Tuesday's high tide there is the second-highest of the year, behind only Thursday's.

The supermoon will peak at 9:36 p.m. ET on Wednesday but will appear full through Friday morning, according to NASA.