Hurricane Idalia poses the most immediate threat to the Gulf Coast of Florida, but forecasters are also warning coastal communities in South Carolina, Georgia and the Atlantic Coast of Florida to prepare for the storm’s effects on Wednesday into Thursday.
Florida’s Atlantic Coast was already experiencing “life-threatening surf and rip currents” generated by another hurricane, Franklin, in the Atlantic. After making landfall in Florida on Wednesday, Idalia is forecast to cross the state into Georgia and South Carolina, creating more hazards, including storm surge, excessive rain, tropical storm conditions and possible tornadoes. The governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, also declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm.
Details regarding the track, intensity and timing of Idalia in the Southeast are still being refined, forecasters said. Watches and warnings for tropical storm conditions and storm surge were issued for parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as forecasters anticipated that, at the very least, Idalia will still be a tropical storm as it traverses the region and moves out over the Atlantic.
Idalia is reminiscent of last year’s Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in southwestern Florida before crossing the state and moving into the Atlantic, causing storm surge and strong winds from Central Florida to North Carolina.
Idalia’s exact path is still uncertain, but the latest forecast keeps it inland and along the shoreline, which could make the effects slightly different than those of Ian. If the storm stays inland, it will likely weaken and remain a tropical storm as it moves across the Southeast.
However, forecasters said a growing swell from Franklin, in addition to high tides, could lead to significant coastal flooding Wednesday evening. Tides were expected to run high through next week because of the full moon on Aug. 31 and the lunar perigee on Aug. 30, forecasters in Charleston, S.C. said. Charleston could exceed the major flood category threshold as the surge associated with Idalia peaks along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
It isn’t only saltwater flooding that forecasters are concerned about. The storm could bring four to eight inches of rain along its path, leading to flash flooding concerns. “A slight shift to the east and the swath of heavier rainfall may fall along the coastline,” forecasters said. “Similarly, a slight shift to the west and heavier rainfall would impact more of the inland counties.”
Some tornadoes are also possible and will initially form over parts of north Florida on Wednesday morning before gradually shifting into southeastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina during the day.