Tropical Storm Italia is expected to intensify and strengthen into “a dangerous major hurricane” by the time it reaches Florida’s Gulf Coast early Wednesday, forecasters said.
The storm is expected to slowly strengthen as it moves toward the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, but hopes are high among forecasters that the rapid intensification that will replace the storm will occur on Tuesday. A major category three hurricane is one with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour or greater. The storm is expected to cross western Cuba and move north toward the Gulf, strengthening toward land.
Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are possible for Florida’s West Coast and Panhandle late Tuesday.
The exact location of landfall is difficult to predict as the storm is expected to move parallel to Florida’s west coast.
“A combination of dangerous storm surge and surge could inundate dry areas near the coast by moving them inland,” the center said.
A storm surge watch was in effect for parts of Florida, as well as a hurricane watch from Englewood to Indian Pass and including Tampa Bay. A hurricane watch was also in effect for Cuba. (Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening flooding.)
A tropical storm watch was issued from the Gulf Coast south of Englewood, about 80 miles south of Tampa, to Sokoloski, 65 miles south of Fort Myers, while a storm surge watch was in effect from Sokoloski to Indian Pass. .
National Hurricane Center deputy director Jamie Rome said winds of 100 mph were expected. Update Sunday evening.
“Evacuations may be necessary for this storm,” said Mr. Rome said.
“The risks will extend completely beyond the cone,” he added, referring to forecast maps showing the storm’s likely path. “Don’t just focus on the cone to determine your risk.”
Italia, pronounced ee-DAL-ya, is threatening to bring heavy rain to Georgia and the Carolinas. forecasters said.
“If you’re in the path of this storm, you should expect power outages, so please prepare for that,” he said Sunday. “If you are power dependent — especially elderly or with medical needs — please plan to go to a shelter.”
The government mobilized 1,100 members of the National Guard with 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft ready for rescue operations. Power companies will be on standby from Monday.
The hurricane center said A suggestion on Monday morning Italy will receive four to seven inches of rain over western Cuba, and four to eight inches over Florida’s west coast, the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia, and the eastern Carolinas.
“This rain will lead to flash and urban flooding and landslides across western Cuba,” the center said.
On Sunday night, a hurricane warning was issued for the city of Pinar del Rio, a two-hour drive west of the Cuban capital, Havana. The Cuban government upgraded the tropical storm watch for the Isle of Jude to a tropical storm warning.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Dry Tortugas Islands, which were previously under a watch advisory, and a watch is in effect for the Lower Florida Keys West west of the Seven Mile Bridge, the center said Sunday night.
A combination of high tide and storm surge is expected to bring water levels up to 11 feet along some parts of the Florida coast, forecasters said.
Florida’s west coast has been no stranger to hurricanes over the past several years.
Hurricane Ian in 2022 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 left the Caribbean islands with strong winds and storm surges and rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico before striking Florida as major hurricanes and causing extensive damage.
Michael hit the Panhandle, and Ian hit the southwest edge of the state. Other storms, such as Eta in 2020 and Elsa in 2021, also reached hurricane strength in the Gulf but weakened before making landfall on Florida’s Big Bend coast.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30.
At the end of May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near normal” amount. On August 10, NOAA officials revised their estimate from 14 to 21 storms.
There were 14 named storms last year, and after two very busy Atlantic hurricane seasons, forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (There were 30 named storms in 2020.)
There is a consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful due to climate change. Although there aren’t many named storms overall, the potential for major hurricanes is increasing.
Climate change also affects the amount of rain storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can receive more rain, as Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, with some areas receiving more than 40 inches of rain in 48 hours.
Orlando Mayorquin Contributed report.