Perhaps the most major hurricane of the 2023 season so far struck Florida’s Big Bend on Wednesday morning.
After strengthening to a Category 2 on Tuesday, Hurricane Idalia was upgraded to a Category 4 Hurricane with winds of 130 mph early on Wednesday morning, prior to making landfall. While there have been previous Category 4 Hurricanes formed in the Atlantic, including one this year, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee was calling Idalia an “unprecedented event” as no other major hurricanes have ever moved through the Apalachee Bay.
As of 8 a.m., the eye of Idalia was moving just inland from Florida’s Big Bend, bringing “catastrophic storm surge and damaging hurricane-force winds” to the area. It was moving north-northeastward at 18 mph, and, even though it was back to Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale, it was still bringing winds of nearly 120 mph with higher gusts to the area.
The biggest dangers for Florida residents continue to be the strong winds and the life-threatening storm surge that comes with it, which could be up to 16 feet in some areas and is expected to peak sometime on Wednesday morning. Several counties have issued evacuation orders for residents, particularly those who live in low-lying areas.
Idalia will also likely have a major impact on Georgia and then South Carolina.
The governors of both Georgia and South Carolina have already announced states of emergency ahead of Idalia’s arrival there. Even with some weakening, Idalia is likely to remain a hurricane when it does reach southern Georgia and South Carolina sometime late on Wednesday. The latest forecast has the storm then reaching the rest of South Carolina and then North Carolina as a Tropical Storm sometime Thursday morning.
While several airports across the region remain closed on Wednesday (more on that here), there are some new updates to the travel situation on Wednesday morning.
- Tampa International, Tallahassee International Airport, Sarasota Bradenton International, and St. Pete-Clearwater all remain closed.
- Orlando International Airport remains open but is warning travelers that “flight disruptions are expected throughout the day,” including delays, cancellations, and baggage issues. Travelers should check with their airline for the most up-to-date information.
- Jacksonville International Airport remains open, but is also warning travelers that “cancellations throughout the day are expected.”
- Outside of those airports, according to FlightAware, several others are already experiencing some significant flight disruptions including Charlotte-Douglas International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Savannah/Hilton Head International.
- Walt Disney World resort remains open with no significant changes to its operations, though guests can expect some windy and rainy conditions.
- Universal Orlando Resort and its theme parks are also open and operating as normal, though it did not offer its Early Park Admission benefit on Wednesday morning.