Hurricane Idalia Is About to Slam Florida With a Wall of Water
Early Tuesday morning, Tropical Storm Idalia strengthened into Hurricane Idalia, charting a course for Florida’s west coast and panhandle. Its maximum sustained winds have already reached nearly 100 miles per hour, and it’s expected to keep feeding on exceptionally warm ocean waters and intensifying before making landfall early Wednesday.
It will pound Florida—including heavily populated Tampa Bay—with a trifecta of compounding hazards: high winds, pouring rains, and a huge storm surge, which could reach up to 15 feet. The National Hurricane Center expects that “life-threatening” surge to bring “catastrophic impacts.”
While most people understand that a hurricane brings wind and rain, the storm surge element is what causes extreme danger to coastal communities. That’s what happens when a storm becomes a giant, swirling bulldozer that pushes a wall of water toward the shore. “The whole Gulf Coast of Florida—peninsula and panhandle—is one of the most storm-surge-vulnerable areas of the United States, or even the world,” says Rick Knabb, a hurricane…