National Hurricane Center
A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico could reach hurricane strength and is expected to begin moving north toward Florida and the southeastern United States in the coming days.
Forecasters say the system, known as Tropical Storm Italia, is likely to intensify over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and has the potential to control West Florida and the Panhandle with severe weather beginning Tuesday.
“If you’re anywhere in the western Florida peninsula — say Fort Myers north to the Panhandle — you’ve got to really pay attention, Even if you are outside the cone,” Jamie Rome, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center said in a video conference Sunday morning.
At 11:15 a.m. EDT, Idalia was located about 80 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph moving east at 2 mph, the NHC said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency 33 counties and authorities there have begun preparing storm response resources such as high water vehicles and boats.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Encourages residents with vehicles In case the authorities order any evacuation, their gas tanks must be at least half full.
If Italia becomes a hurricane with sustained winds above 75 miles per hour and makes landfall in the U.S. at that strength, it would be the first Atlantic hurricane to hit the U.S. this year.
But it is still unclear how strong Italia will grow and what path it will take.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Sunday for parts of Mexico and western Cuba with the possibility of heavy rain, flash flooding and landslides.
In the coming days, Italia is expected to move north through the Gulf of Mexico, where it could strengthen into a hurricane, forecasters say.
“There is a significant risk of rapid intensification as this system moves across the warmer east and northeast Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said. said in the Sunday morning forecast.
Italia will begin impacting parts of Florida by Tuesday morning.
Rome noted that the Florida Panhandle is particularly vulnerable to storm surge, a concern for Italy. “It doesn’t take a strong system or a direct impact to produce significant storm surge,” he said.
He added that other states in the southeastern United States, such as Georgia and the Carolinas, could expect more rain by midweek.
A separate hurricane, Franklin, intensified in the western Atlantic on Sunday. Franklin was expected to affect parts of Bermuda but not have a direct impact on the continental U.S., although Rome noted that the storm could create rip currents on beaches along the East Coast.