The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is closely monitoring Tropical Depression Ten near the southern Gulf of Mexico, which will strengthen into Tropical Storm Idalia today and then a hurricane before making landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
As of the latest advisory from the NHC, Tropical Depression Ten had maximum sustained winds of about 35 mph with some higher gusts and was moving to the east at 2 mph.
The NHC says Tropical Depression Ten will become a tropical storm "at any time," and watches will likely be required for parts of Florida over the next day or so. The NHC says the system will likely strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday.
A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when winds are anticipated to reach levels of 39 to 73 mph within 48 hours. Sustained winds of these levels can produce damage and can be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding and tornadoes. A Hurricane Watch is issued when winds are anticipated to reach at least 74 mph within 48 hours.
Rainfall impacts from the tropical cyclone
One of the leading impacts of the tropical cyclone is expected to be rainfall. Forecast models show communities along Interstate 10 and west of Interstate 75 will see the highest rainfall totals.
Florida’s Apalachicola and Big Bend regions could receive the most precipitation, with 4-6" of rainfall over the next few days. Some communities could see higher rainfall totals where bands train over the same areas.
The FOX Forecast Center says there is good news with the tropical moisture, many observation sites along the west coast have seen a rainfall deficit in 2023.
Tampa is running more than a foot of precipitation behind normal, and Naples is approaching a 20" deficit.
The much-needed rainfall could improve and, for some communities, end the ongoing drought.
Wind impacts from the tropical cyclone
Due to uncertainties with the system's strength, coastal residents along Florida's Gulf Coast are being urged to prepare for impacts from a hurricane.
Sustained winds of at least 39 mph are capable of downing small branches and damaging trees, which can impact power lines.
Once sustained winds reach at least 40 mph, local first responders and emergency management usually shut down access to bridges in an effort to keep high-profile vehicles safe.
The last tropical cyclone to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Nicole in November. Nicole was a Category 1 cyclone that made landfall near Vero Beach.
The National Centers for Environmental Information estimated the damage from Nicole was around $1 billion.
The threat of the tropical cyclone forced Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a state of emergency for half of Florida's 67 counties.
Due to the proximity of the tropical cyclone to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and western Cuba, Tropical Storm Warnings and Watches have been issued until the system clears the region.