MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Hurricane Idalia barreled into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday morning, as a powerful Category 3 storm. It’s the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Big Bend region in more than 125 years. Idalia will likely still be a low-end hurricane as it crosses the South Carolina/Georgia border and then downgrade to a tropical storm as the center of circulation passes near or through our viewing area overnight into Thursday morning.
The storm rapidly intensified before landfall registering as a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. The storm was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane about an hour after landfall.
Idalia struck the coast at around 7:45 a.m. ET near Keaton Beach, roughly 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee, according to the National Hurricane Center. Land interaction has caused winds to weaken significantly. The storm is moving very fast to the north-northeast at 20 mph.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for every county in our viewing area. Remember a warning means tropical storm conditions are expected and a watch means those conditions are possible. An areal flood watch is also in effect along with a coastal flood warning for coastal Horry and Georgetown counties. An areal flood watch means persistent, heavy rainfall is excepted for a prolonged period of time. In this case, heavy rain is expected from 3 p.m. to midnight.
Flood warnings have been issued for numerous rivers in the Pee Dee and border belt. Most rivers are forecasted at minor to moderate flood stage and they will rapidly increase tomorrow and crest throughout the weekend.
With the heavy rain, the potential begins Wednesday afternoon and continues through Thursday morning. The Weather Prediction Center has our area at a moderate risk for excessive rainfall Wednesday afternoon and overnight. Rainfall totals will range from 5-8″ throughout the area.
Idalia could also bring storm surge Wednesday evening and overnight. 2′ to 4′ of storm surge is possible, plus coastal flooding due to a King Tide expected around 7:45 pm Wednesday.
The timing is going to be the biggest factor for the potential of coastal flooding. Onshore flow begins around the time of high tide, but the strongest flow is after midnight which is four hours after high tide. Therefore, coastal flooding will not be as bad as with Hurricane Ian. The Wednesday evening high tide will be a King Tide and the highest lunar tide of the month. Wednesday night is also when tropical storm-force winds are expected to arrive which are winds between 39-74mph.
Tornados are the final threat to consider. The Storm Prediction Center has the Grand Strand in a 10% tornado risk for this evening and overnight tomorrow. Tropical tornadoes are pretty common, usually, they are brief and do not get very strong. A tornado watch is now in effect for Horry and Georgetown counties until 10 p.m.