Tropical Storm Idalia nears hurricane strength as it gets closer to Florida

Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to become a hurricane at any time as it lingers near Western Cuba. The storm is forecast to become a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico as it moves closer to landfall in Florida

As of 11 p.m. Monday, Idalia has wind speeds of 70 miles per hour. It was at 22.0 degrees longitude and 85.0 degrees latitude and was moving north at eight miles an hour. 

FOX 13 Meteorologist Dave Osterberg says it is sitting in one of the warmest, deepest areas in the Caribbean that is known as a place where storms can strengthen.

Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning. 

He said there was still a bit of wind shear, which will keep the storm from rapidly intensifying for now. However, once it gets into the Gulf of Mexico, he expects it to intensify quickly until it makes landfall. 

As of Monday morning, it looked like landfall would be in the Big Bend area, near Cedar Key as a major hurricane, which is a category 3 or higher. 

RELATED: Florida prepares for Tropical Storm Idalia with lessons learned from Ian: 'Do not focus on just the cone'

Osterberg expects the Bay Area to begin seeing bands of rain from Tropical Storm Idalia on Tuesday night with the storm passing to the west around 2 or 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning. 

Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning. 

Strong winds could lead to power outages as well as storm surge and coastal flooding, especially during periods of high tide. The full moon midweek will not help.

Communities across the Bay Area have begun making sandbags available to residents.

According to Osterberg, a 4-7 foot storm surge is expected in Tampa Bay late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. He added that one of the highest tides of the year is also taking place early Wednesday morning. 

A Storm Surge Warning has been issued from Englewood northward to the Ochlockonee River, including Tampa Bay.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued from the Middle of Longboat Key northward to the Ochlockonee River, including Tampa Bay.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from Chokoloskee northward to the Middle of Longboat Key, and from west of the Lockheed River westward to Indian Pass.

Tropical Storm watches have been issued for Florida's west coast ahead of Tropical Storm Idalia.

Tropical Storm watches have been issued for Florida's west coast ahead of Tropical Storm Idalia. 

Osterberg says if you live in an area that has flooded in the past from storms coming in from the west, it’s crucial to pay attention to the storm’s forecast. 

A storm surge watch has also been issued for the Gulf Coast from Chokoloskee to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.

LINK: Track Idalia on


Voluntary evacuations are in place in Hernando County for all communities west of US 19. County officials are those living in low-lying areas or mobile homes need to prepare. Hernando County will open shelters Monday afternoon in its schools, which is why classes have been canceled.  

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been issued for certain areas of Pasco County as Tropical Storm Idalia heads toward the Gulf Coast. Click here to see your evacuation zone. 

You must evacuate if one or more of the following applies to you:

  • You live in Evacuation Zone A
  • You live in a manufactured home, mobile home or RV anywhere in Pasco
  • You live in a low-lying area or an area prone to flooding
  • You live in a structure that historically has experienced flooding during heavy rainfall
  • You’re in an area ordered evacuated by local authorities due to life-safety hazards

You should evacuate if:

  • You live in Evacuation Zones B or C
  • You’re registered with Pasco as a special needs resident
  • You would be vulnerable in the event of a power loss

Pinellas County has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Zone A, including all mobile homes, effective as of Monday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. Residents can find their zone here

In Hernando County, voluntary evacuations have been issued for all areas west of US 19, which includes evacuation zones A, B, and C.  All residents living in coastal and low-lying areas, as well as manufactured homes county wide, are included. Residents are advised to seek safe shelter with family or friends that reside in a safe structure. If this is not a possibility, public shelters will open at noon on Monday. 

Hillsborough County has issued a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A, as well as those in mobile and manufactured homes and residents in low-lying areas prone to flooding. 

MacDill Air Force Base announced a base-wide evacuation that is to be completed by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, August 29 for non-mission essential individuals and dependents and for those who reside in Evac Zone A in the following counties: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando.

State of Emergency

Ahead of the storm, Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for 46 Florida counties, including the Tampa Bay Area, "out of an abundance of caution."

The state of emergency was issued to the following counties:

  • Alachua
  • Baker
  • Bay
  • Calhoun
  • Charlotte
  • Citrus
  • Clay
  • Collier
  • Columbia
  • DeSoto
  • Dixie
  • Duval
  • Flagler
  • Franklin
  • Gadsden
  • Gilchrist
  • Gulf
  • Hamilton
  • Hardee
  • Hernando
  • Hillsborough
  • Lake
  • Jefferson
  • Lafayette
  • Lee
  • Leon
  • Levy
  • Liberty
  • Madison
  • Manatee
  • Marion
  • Nassau
  • Pasco
  • Pinellas
  • Polk
  • Putnam
  • Sarasota
  • Seminole
  • St. Johns
  • Sumter
  • Suwannee
  • Taylor
  • Union
  • Volusia
  • Wakulla

School Closures 

Citrus County

On Monday, August 28, the County will operate on a half-day schedule. All schools will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

All after-school programs and extra-curricular activities have been canceled beginning Monday afternoon until further notice.

Hernando County 

All schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday. 

All Pasco-Hernando State College campuses will be closed and classes canceled Tuesday, August 29 and Wednesday, August 30. Normal operations are expected to resume on Thursday August 31 unless otherwise notified. Campuses will be open and classes remain as scheduled for Monday, August 27. 

Hillsborough County

All Hillsborough County schools will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. All after-school programs & extra-curricular activities will also be suspended. Officials expect to reopen the schools on Thursday. 

Manatee County

Manatee County public schools will be open on Monday, August 28. However, four schools will be dismissed at noon on Monday to prepare for shelters. Those schools include: 

  • Nolan Middle
  • Freedom Elementary
  • Miller Elementary
  • Mills Elementary

Pasco County

Pasco County public schools will be open on Monday, August 28, but will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and resume regular school hours on Thursday.

Hardee County

The Hardee County School District will be closed on Tuesday, August 29 and Wednesday, August 30 due to Tropical Storm Idalia.The school district plans to reopen on Thursday, August 31.

Tampa International Airport will also suspend operations as of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.