TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Idalia is expected to become a major hurricane by the time it makes landfall in Florida, bringing life-threatening storm surges and winds to the Gulf Coast.
Idalia rapidly intensified throughout the day Tuesday, gaining strength from the warm waters of the coast with no sign of weakening. At 11 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said it was forecast to become a category 4 hurricane at landfall.
“Typically, a storm will weaken again once it goes through an eyewall replacement cycle,” Max Defender 8 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said. “If it’s out there long enough, if you get a coincidental landfall at the right time, an eye wall replacement cycle will weaken the storm right when it makes landfall. That’s not going to happen.”
According to Berardelli, Idalia only has time to strengthen “vigorously,” allowing it to surpass major hurricane status.
“It’s not out of the question, looking at that satellite, that it may become a cat 4 right before landfall,” he said.
This would continue a trend of hurricanes intensifying right up until landfall in the past decade.
“It wasn’t always the case, but it’s become the case a lot over the past decade in the Gulf of Mexico,” Berardelli said.
Idalia, like all hurricanes, has drawn its strength from warm water.
“It’s 88, 89 degrees (31, 32 degrees Celsius) over where the storm’s going to be tracking, so that’s effectively rocket fuel for the storm,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach to the Associated Press. “It’s basically all systems go for the storm to intensify.”
Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT, also told the Associated Press that Idalia could even set a record for its intensification rate.
The record hot surface temperatures seen in the Atlantic Ocean and around Florida have been the subject of concern, particularly with regard to human-caused climate change.
In recent history, Hurricanes Ian, Ida, Harvey, and Michael all rapidly intensified up until landfall, with Ian making landfall as a category 5 in Sepember 2022. Ian was said to be one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit Florida in the past 20 years, according to NBC News.