First Alert Weather

Tracking Idalia: Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia impacts centered on Wednesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As Tropical Storm Idalia approaches, Action News Jax’s First Alert Weather Team is tracking its potential impacts.


Here is the latest information from the First Alert Weather Center:

  • Forecast landfall is Big Bend north of Tampa early Wednesday as a category 3 hurricane.
  • Weakens while moving swiftly northeast across Northwest Florida to west and north of Jacksonville but still strong enough to produce sustained tropical storm force winds (39-73 MPH) and hurricane wind gusts (74+ MPH).
  • Forecast to be near Lake City on Wednesday afternoon (2 p.m.) with 90 mph winds.

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Local (Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga.) Impacts (BASED ON CURRENT FORECAST & SUBJECT TO CHANGE) centered on Wednesday with rapid improvement Wed. night/Thu.:

Rain - An average of 2-4″, locally more west of Highway 301.... 1-3″(+) from Highway 301 to I-95... 1-2″(+) east of I-95 to the beaches. The fast movement of Idalia will keep amounts lower than what’s experienced with slower-moving storms. The area has also been unseasonably dry the last few weeks so there is not an overly large amount of water “in the system” which will help some when it comes to freshwater flooding.

Winds - averaging 40-60+ mph west of Highway 301 with gusts 70+ mph. Closer to I-75 - from Lake City to Waycross - sustained hurricane-force winds of 74+ mph will be possible. From Highway 301 to the beaches, sustained winds Wed. averaging 30-50 mph with gusts 60+ mph. If Idalia turns east sooner (faster) then it’s possible sustained winds could be stronger - near hurricane strength - for a larger part of NE Fl. & SE Ga. Direction: Winds will be out of the S/SE Tue. night then out of the south by early Wed. veering out of the SW by midday then out of the west & eventually NW by late afternoon.

Coast/beaches: windy with winds of 30-50 mph & gusts of 50+ mph. There will be a high rip current risk enhanced by distant hurricane Franklin & an easterly swell. A full moon Wednesday evening will also give an astronomical boost to surf. Based on the current forecast, this should not be particularly severe for our beaches from an erosion standpoint (compared to Nicole & Ian from last year, for example). Seas will peak at an average of 5-10 feet Wed. with surf averaging 4-8 feet, locally higher. The best advice is to stay out of the ocean through midweek but if you do insist on going in the water, always swim & surf with a buddy & as close to a lifeguard as possible. Winds will become offshore & “clean up” the surf by late Wed./Wed. night but with a continued high & dangerous risk of rip currents.

INTERACTIVE RADAR: Keep track of the rain as it moves through your neighborhood

Storm surge is forecast to average 1-3 feet along the NE Fl. coast & St. Johns River... & 3-6 feet for the coast of Southeast Georgia.

St. Johns River: Based on the latest forecast... strong winds from the south will push water northward to downtown causing potential flooding, the extent of which will depend on how close & how strong the center is to Jacksonville. Once the center of Idalia moves by & away, strong winds on the backside out of the west & northwest will help to “empty” some of the water to the east. All areas along the river & its tributaries - from Putnam Co. through Clay/St. Johns & Duval Co. will be subject to flooding & backwash. Small unique topography along the river, Intracoastal & coast can & will lead to localized higher surge & flooding. As a whole, storm surge is forecast to average 1-3 feet.

Tornadoes: Tornadoes are expected late Tue. through late Wed. centered on sunrise Wed. through early afternoon Wed.

Damage: Idalia’s winds will be the biggest threat along with a few tornadoes. The most widespread & significant wind damage looks to be west of I-95 so largely an inland storm. There will be some storm surge along the coast, St. Johns River & its tributaries. Power outages can be expected & may become widespread & long-lasting if Idalia remains relatively powerful well inland - possibly to or near Jacksonville due to its relatively fast movement.

Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh said to realize all these impacts are based on current forecasts that will change to at least some degree and understand impacts will be much greater closer to landfall (Panhandle & Upper Florida West Coast).

Buresh also said to remember that the forecast cone only involves the expected path of the storm. Don’t get fixated on the center and realize impacts from the storm will extend far away from the center.

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Mike Buresh | Garrett Bedenbaugh | Corey Simma | Trevor Gibbs

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