As Hurricane Idalia strengthened into a Category 4 storm early Wednesday, it posed the most immediate threat to the Gulf Coast of Florida, but forecasters also issued a hurricane warning for coastal communities in Georgia and South Carolina.
Idalia continued moving toward the Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday morning and was expected to make landfall there. Maximum sustained winds increased to near 130 miles per hour, forecasters said, with higher gusts. The storm could further strengthen before making landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
After landfall, Idalia is forecast to move toward the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina late Wednesday and Thursday.
“While Idalia should weaken after landfall, it is likely to still be a hurricane while moving across southern Georgia, and near the coast of Georgia or southern South Carolina late today,” according to the Hurricane Center. Strong winds will spread inland across parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia, forecasters said.
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.
Forecasters said on Tuesday that a growing swell from Franklin, in addition to high tides, could lead to significant coastal flooding. 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.”