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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Meteorologist Kristen Kennedy breaks down the latest on Hurricane Idalia’s forecast, intensity, path, impacts and more!
Idalia continues to be the focus of the forecast this week. As of the 10 a.m. CDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm has strengthened overnight to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and higher gusts. It has also picked up in speed, now moving north at 14 mph. It is currently moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico where it will continue moving into the eastern Gulf today. It is still expected to be a very dangerous storm before making landfall mid-late Wednesday morning. Rapid strengthening is likely as the hurricane enters very warm Gulf waters of 88-89 degrees. Regardless of the Category, the impacts from this system will be felt across majority of the Peninsula and eastern areas of the Panhandle. It still looks like landfall is likely around the north/northeastern Big Bend Wednesday mid-late morning.
The chance that this storm shifts west of Franklin County is very low. I would encourage everyone to be prepared for the worst case scenario, however, and hope for the best.
• Worst case scenario: landfall in Franklin/Wakulla County (higher rain totals, surge and wind potential along Forgotten coast, slight increase in threats across Calhoun and Gulf County, no major changes to central/western locations’ forecast)
• Best case scenario: landfall farther east than currently forecast – Dixie/Levy County – and below category 3 strength (lower rain totals, surge and wind potential across central and eastern Panhandle)
IMPACTS: Again, tropical impacts will be felt closer to center of the storm, so we’re really looking at the highest impacts around the Big Bend. Liberty, Franklin and Gulf County are the three main areas in our forecasting area that will be impacted most, especially Franklin County. In these areas, rain totals will range from 2-5 inches, sustained winds will range from 30-40 mph with gusts of 50 mph possible and storm surge will range from 3-5 feet.
Rain totals and wind strength will lessen the further west you go. Much of our central and western Panhandle locations will see less than 2 inches of rain with winds of 10-20 mph Wednesday and gusts up to 30 mph. There will likely be a sharp cut-off of rain from Hurricane Idalia as the system moves to the northeast throughout Wednesday morning which means some areas of the Panhandle may not see any rainfall while spots to the east will see a lot more.
WATCHES AND WARNINGS
Gulf County: Tropical Storm Warning & Flood Watch
Liberty County: Tropical Storm Warning & Flood Watch
Franklin County: Tropical Storm Warning. Coastal Franklin County: Hurricane Warning & Storm Surge Warning
Coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico and bays of Bay County: Tropical Storm Warning
TIMING: Today, outer rainbands of Idalia will stretch their way into the Panhandle and pop-up showers or storms will develop thanks to tropical moisture and a stalled boundary to our northwest. Rain chances will be pretty high for all of the Panhandle. By Wednesday, the best chance for rain and stronger winds will be closest to Idalia in our eastern locations. More intense rain and wind will pick up east after midnight, really 5-10 a.m. CDT. To the west, it will be a breezy and grey morning with isolated shower/storm activity lasting into the afternoon with wrap-around moisture from the storm. Showers and storms around as well as cloud cover will result in temperatures hanging out in the upper 80s on Wednesday. Winds will die down as the system clears us to the northeast Wednesday afternoon, so we’ll basically return to our near-normal pattern Thursday through the weekend. Temperatures will return to the low and mid-90s Thursday through Sunday. Rain chances will become more isolated by Saturday and drier conditions are likely Sunday into Monday.
The tropical system will be churning the Gulf of Mexico, creating nasty waves and swell over the next few days. Wave height will range from 7-10 feet at area beaches Wednesday, up to 15 feet at sea. Dangerous water conditions will last through Friday. Please stay out of and off of the water for your own safety and the safety of first responders, too. Double red flags will likely fly along the beaches starting later today. Remember, where double red flags are flying, the water is closed to the public for swimming and boogey boarding. If you enter the water when double red flags are up, you could be arrested or fined.