MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Idalia intensified early Monday and was expected to become a major hurricane before it reaches Florida’s Gulf coast, the National Hurricane Center said Monday, warning of an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds in Florida as soon as late Tuesday.
Heavy rainfall in western Cuba could produce flooding and landslides, forecasters said, and hurricane-force winds were expected later Monday. At 8 a.m. EDT Monday, the storm was about 90 miles (150 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph). The storm was moving north at 8 mph (13 kph) at the time, the hurricane center said.
The center’s update also included a hurricane advisory for the Cuban province of Pinar Del Rio.
Forecasters said they expected Idalia to become a hurricane later Monday and a dangerous major hurricane by early Wednesday over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Idalia was expected to move northward Monday, then turn north-northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday and move at a faster pace. The center was forecast to pass over the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Tuesday, and reach the Florida’s western coast on Wednesday.
Along a vast stretch of Florida’s west coast, up to 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water could surge on shore, raising fears of destructive flooding.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said the 2023 hurricane season would be far busier than initially forecast, partly because of extremely warm ocean temperatures. The season runs through Nov. 30, with August and September typically the peak.
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