Idalia Blooming Into a Hurricane Heading to Florida’s Big Bend

August 28, 2023 PM Update Tropical Storm Idalia is expected to become a hurricane later tonight as mandatory evacuations are underway along Florida’s Gulf Coast.  It is still forecast to come ashore Wednesday morning as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds in excess of 111 mph, 6-10” of rain in Central and North-Central Florida,  and dangerous storm surge of 8-12 feet.  Expect hurricane-force winds as soon as late afternoon tomorrow (Tuesday).  The current forecast track as of 8pm still has the center of the storm making landfall anywhere from around Cape San Blas to Tampa Bay sometime mid-morning Wednesday as at least a Category 3 hurricane.  Their best estimate remains somewhere in the middle, which would be rural and sparsely-populated Taylor and Dixie Counties.  However, as we know, the northeast quadrant to a storm’s eye usually has the strongest, most damaging winds.   Also, a third of the time, the storm travels outside the cone.   In fact, a tropical storm watch is now in effect for parts of Florida’s East Coast, so big is its potential impact. 

As of 8pm this evening, Idalia was located off the western tip of Cuba, moving slowly for now north, expected to speed-up and veer more north-northeast beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.  With winds at 70 mph, it is just below hurricane strength.  NOAA has hurricane hunters in the storm and will know later this evening whether it’s a hurricane.  Forecasters warn that Idalia is a large storm and because it’s moving fast, we’ll feel the winds well before it arrives.  “Don’t focus on the cone graphic because warnings are well outside of the cone.  There are a lot of favorable factors for it to intensify,” warned a hurricane center forecaster this evening.  The record ocean and gulf temperatures are unfortunately ideal to fuel powerful hurricanes.

Verisk Weather Solutions this morning shared a weather scenario where Hurricane Idalia makes landfall as a very low-end Category 4 Hurricane near Alligator Point, south of Tallahassee, before moving inland where the western eyewall would pass over Tallahassee.  The strongest wind gusts of 100+ mph would focus on the Big Bend region of Florida with isolated gusts to this magnitude extending inland to as far north as the Georgia border.  Wind gusts of 70+ mph would extend further inland across northern Florida and into southern Georgia.  40+ mph gusts would be possible across much of central and northern Florida as well as much of Georgia and portions of the Carolinas.

Current Warnings/Watches as of 8pm:

Hurricane Warning: from Cape San Blas south to Longboat Key, including the following counties: western Alachua, Citrus, Dixie, coastal Franklin, Gilchrist, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Manatee, western Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, and coastal Wakulla counties.
Hurricane Watch
from Englewood to the middle of Longboat Key, including the following counties: eastern Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Hamilton, Leon, central Marion, Sarasota, Union, and inland Wakulla counties.
Tropical Storm Warning from Chokoloskee northward to the middle of Longboat Key and from west of Indian Pass to Mexico Beach, including the following counties: Charlotte, coastal Collier, DeSoto, inland Franklin, Gulf, Hardee, Lake, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, and inland Wakulla counties, as well as the Dry Tortugas.
Tropical Storm Watch from the Lower Florida Keys west of the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge, and on the East Coast from Sebastian Inlet, Florida northward to South Santee River, South Carolina;  it includes the following counties: Brevard, Clay, inland Collier, Duval, Flagler, East Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia counties, as well as the Lower Keys.
Storm Surge Warning for the Gulf Coast from the Charlotte/Sarasota County border to the Franklin/Gulf County border, including Tampa Bay.
Storm Surge Watch along the Gulf Coast from the Charlotte/Sarasota County border to the Collier/Monroe County border.

Storm surge of 8-12 feet from the Aucilla River in Jefferson County south to Chassahowitzka River in Citrus County is forecast.  This is a dangerous and life-threatening surge, especially for people and buildings in low-lying coastal areas along that part of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Governor extended the state of emergency declaration from 33 to 46 counties to include much of north-central and northeast Florida, as Idalia’s forecast track takes it across the state and into Georgia and the Carolinas.  FEMA today granted a pre-landfall emergency declaration for Idalia.  The Governor said this morning, “We’re also stressing that evacuating from a barrier island doesn’t mean you need to get in your car and drive to Alabama or hundreds of miles away, you need to get to higher ground in a safe structure. That could be a shelter, a friend’s home, or a hotel.”  The Governor late this afternoon suspended tolls beginning at 4am tomorrow (Tuesday) along major highways along Florida’s west coast.  Florida’s 511 Traveler Information System is available for drivers to stay informed about roadway conditions during emergencies.  He’s also mobilized 1,500 National Guard members and a fleet of 2,400 high-water rescue vehicles and 12 aircraft in any rescue and recovery efforts.

Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie reinforced that message, reminding residents that “storm surge was the number one cause of deaths in Hurricane Ian.”  He urged eveyone to go to where they will be able to type in their home address to find out which flood evacuation zone they are in.   Those not living in an evacuation zone and lacking a specific local evacuation order in this storm, can consider sheltering in place. 

Evacuations: As we referenced in yesterday’s update, the greater Tampa Bay area is home to the largest population in Florida – nearly 3.3 million people.  It’s also consider to be the most flood vulnerable area of Florida.  Mandatory evacuations began today for residents living along Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay and other waterways in Hillsborough County and along the coastal barrier beaches and waterways of Pinellas County.  Likewise in Pasco and Levy counties, just north of Tampa and in Manatee County to the south.  Most schools in counties along the coast as well as inland North-Central Florida will be closed tomorrow and Wednesday.  See the complete list of evacuation orders.  

Infrastructure Update: The Governor has also repeatedly warned Floridians to expect to lose power in the storm.  Tampa Electric and Duke Energy, which serves many communities on the Central West Coast, said they’ve been staging thousands of workers in and just outside of Florida, ready to repair any outages.  The Florida Municipal Electric Association likewise said more than 30 member utilities from across the Southeast and Midwest are providing mutual assistance in staging nearby.  Tampa International Airport and St.Pete-Clearwater International Airport will close tomorrow and Sunrail commuter service in Orlando is being suspended as well.

Insurance Claims: The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) issued Informational Memorandum OIR-23-05M to all authorized residential property insurers to provide guidance on hurricane preparedness and response.  The Memorandum covers claims handling requirements, maintaining records, and fines that OIR may levy for violations.  OIR has directed insurers to review all aspects of their disaster preparedness and response plans to ensure they’re in compliance with Florida law.

Tallahassee home boarded-up in preparation for Hurricane Idalia, August 28, 2023

In Leon County (Tallahassee), as in many other communities of the Big Bend and Florida’s west coast, sandbag sites were busy with residents filling-up their own sandbags for protection against home flooding.  Residents have also begun boarding up their windows for protection against the wind.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services today finished its investigation of the fuel contamination caused by human error at the Port of Tampa.  Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said that by this evening he hopes to have all impacted gas stations identified and have their tanks replaced with clean fuel.

Click here for the full National Hurricane Center briefing with maps.  Visit for the very latest state disaster management information.  You can also review our past Hurricane Updates and subscribe to receive future updates in your inbox.

Please know that we at Lisa Miller & Associates are here 24/7 for you.  It may sound trite but we are all in this together, my friends and colleagues.  Please prepare and be aware!

Lisa & the LMA team

(Here’s the latest news from the Governor’s Office on specific state preparedness actions and a list of mobilized resources:)

State Preparedness Efforts

  • FDEM is leading the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) for the Tropical Storm Idalia response.
  • FDEM is mobilizing requested resources to support residents and first responders in the path of the storm, including more than 25 pallets of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), more than 180 pallets of bottled water, and more than 10 pallets of tarps.
  • The Florida National Guard has been fully activated, with a mobilization of 2,500 guardsmen within the next 24-48 hours for preparedness and response efforts. An additional 3,000 guardsmen are being activated today.
  • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has activated the State Emergency Operations Center Team to support ongoing operations. FDLE has prepared:
    • One mobile command vehicle;
    • One operations command center;
    • Six mobile staging units;
    • 80 agents and analysts ready to deploy;
    • Three large trailers;
    • Four box trailers;
    • Two cargo trucks;
    • One forklift;
    • 24 generators and,
    • 20 Chainsaws
  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has readied high-water vehicles and all other storm response resources statewide so they may be rapidly deployed to assist Floridians in need in the event of damage or flooding. Contingency plans based on forecasted landfall locations have been developed and are flexible based on the storm’s projected path.
  • FWC Officers will respond with a variety of specialized equipment as necessary, including:
    • Shallow draft boats;
    • Larger platform vessels;
    • ATVs;
    • Airboats; and  
    • Four-wheel drive vehicles. 

These assets are in addition to local FWC officers deployed to potentially affected areas. 

  • FWC Special Operations Group (SOG) teams will serve as reconnaissance units for the State EOC and report back on damage after the storm has made landfall. 
  • FWC Aviation Section has been placed on standby and has readied all appropriate aircraft for potential deployment for EOC aerial assistance, reconnaissance, and post-storm damage assessments when needed.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol has 300 troopers ready to deploy and is prepared to implement 12-hour Alpha, Bravo shifts in preparation for Tropical Storm Idalia.
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has completed pre-storm beach surveys in all shoreline counties.
  • All significant hazardous waste facilities in potentially affected counties are being contacted to ensure all pre-storm preparations are being made.  
  • All Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Correctional Institutions have back-up power generators in the event commercial power is lost.

Health and Human Services

  • The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has submitted the federal waiver request for early release of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This will expedite the receipt of benefits for those scheduled to receive food assistance during the first half of the month in September.
  • DCF’s Mass Care unit is working with the American Red Cross and feeding partners to assess shelter needs and get updated inventory information for food on hand for distribution.
  • DCF is assessing the need for utilization of the crisis counseling program and deployment of crisis counseling teams to support area resiliency.
  • The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics stands ready to coordinate with wholesale distributors of prescription drugs and medical gas to ensure an uninterrupted supply for potential impacted residents.
  • The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has distributed a statewide reminder regarding special needs shelter registration.
  • DOH has staged 33 strike teams, totaling 200 ambulances, for any facility evacuations or patient transport needs. Staging is currently in Marianna and Lakeland. An additional 200 ambulances have been requested. 
  • DOH is working with local emergency management to prepare special needs shelter staffing.
  • The DOH and Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) sent information regarding early prescription refills permitted under Executive Order 23-171. This information was sent to the public, health insurers, managed care organizations, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacy chains, and health care providers.
  • DOH has contacted Medical Foster Care (MFC) families to enact emergency plans, prepare supplies, and fill any prescriptions. DOH staff will remain in contact with individual MFC families to ensure services and needs are met.
  • The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has finalized a report utilizing newly developed GIS software that includes information from residential providers and hospitals in counties under the State of Emergency. 
  • AHCA sent a Medicaid Provider Alert outlining Key Medicaid Information for Fee-For-Service and Managed Care Providers during Tropical Storm Idalia, this can be found here.
  • AHCA has activated the Emergency Patient Look-Up System (E-PLUS).  Special needs shelters are able to utilize the system to retrieve patient medical records. E-PLUS is also available to assist medical providers and emergency response personnel with locating missing or displaced persons after the storm.
  • AHCA partnered with Florida Health Care Association and Florida Hospital Association to initiate statewide calls with long term care facilities and hospitals.
  • 100% of operating long-term care facilities have a generator on-site. The Generator Status Map for long-term care facilities is available here.
  • AHCA opened an event in the Health Facility Reporting System ahead of any potential impacts. All Residential/Inpatient Health Care Providers in counties under a state of emergency must submit updates on census, bed availability, evacuation and receiving status, power outages and generator status by 10AM daily & when a situation changes. 
  • AHCA has contacted the Medicaid Managed Care Plans, to ensure they are taking the necessary preparations for the storm, including allowing for early prescription refills. Fee-for-service recipients are also eligible for early refills.
  • The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), based on the Governor’s Executive Order, has mapped out the locations and current census of APD clients and residents located in potentially affected areas.
  • WaterTracker is active, DEP’s online portal for drinking and wastewater facilities to report their operational status. 

Infrastructure, Roads and State Closures

  • The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) continues to complete assessments of the fuel supplies as locations reported by CITGO to determine the severity of contaminated fuel within on-site tanks. Based on these assessments, FDACS will determine the types of fuel that is contaminated and issue subsequent communications.  
  • FDACS has opened up the consumer hotline to receive complaints from impacted consumers. If you believe you were sold contaminated gasoline, you can file a complaint by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA or visiting
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has 525 team members readying over 211 pieces of equipment and vehicles in case of the need for pre-staging and immediate deployment.
  • The Howard Frankland Bridge project in Tampa is completing the process of  securing barges in the area. All other active construction projects are on alert and are taking any necessary actions related to storm preparations such as securing work sites including barges and marine equipment, lowering high mast arm lighting, clearing traffic control devices that are not actively being used to direct traffic, and checking drainage systems.  
  • Port Panama City, Port Tampa Bay, Seaport Manatee, Port St. Joe, and Port of St. Petersburg have begun securing port infrastructure and clearing waterways as they prepare for the approaching storm.
  • FDOT has postponed previously scheduled maintenance activities on Jacksonville’s Main Street Bridge and the St. Augustine Bridge of Lions.
  • FDOT crews are actively sweeping roadway shoulders, preparing signage, and opening the maximum amount of lanes possible within construction zones in preparation for the potential implementation of Emergency Shoulder Use (ESU) in case of evacuations.
  • FDOT is in close communication with transportation partners across the state, including airports, seaports, rail lines and transit agencies, as they are on watch and making any necessary preparations.
  • Florida’s 511 Traveler Information System is available for drivers to stay informed about roadway conditions during emergencies. This service is monitored and updated 24/7 by FDOT and includes traffic conditions, road and bridge closures, and other specialized alerts. To use Florida’s 511, visit the website at or download the app—on both Apple and Android devices.
  • FDOT is monitoring traffic levels along I-10, I-75, and I-4 to ensure safe flow of traffic as the storm’s predicted path becomes clearer.
  • FDOT is working with utility providers to allow staging of utility trucks at weigh stations across the state as well as coordinate post-storm debris operations in support of swift electrical power restoration.
  • Movable bridge lockdowns are being coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • FDOT is activating district emergency and pre-event contracts for post-storm operations including debris removal, traffic signal and lighting repairs, and generators.
  • FDOT reminds motorists to always drive safely. Remember to avoid distractions and slow down during inclement weather.
  • Airports:
    • Tampa International Airport will close at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, (8/29).
    • St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport will close at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, (8/29). 
  • Seaports:
    • Port Panama City, Port St. Joe, Port Fernandina, JAXPORT, Port Canaveral, and Port Key West are actively preparing for the approaching storm.
    • Port Tampa Bay, Port of St. Petersburg, and Seaport Manatee landside operations remain open, however the ports are closed to inbound vessels.
  • Transit and Rail:
    • SunRail Service will suspend service on Tuesday, August 29.
    • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will suspend service if sustained winds reach 35 mph.
    • Florida’s four regional railroads (Florida Northern, Florida Midland, Florida Central and Port Manatee Railroads) will suspend operations the afternoon of Tuesday, August 29.
    • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) will begin Emergency Service on Tuesday, August 29. HART will offer free service on limited or reduced service routes.
    • Jacksonville Transportation Authority will suspend ferry operations on Tuesday, August 29
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has published a storm updates webpage to keep state park visitors updated of closures: Visitors with existing camping and cabin reservations at closed parks have been notified of their reservation status.
  • DEP has pre-authorized 627 Disaster Debris Management Sites for the counties included in the Governor’s Executive Order to temporarily stage storm-generated debris that may result from the storm.
  • DEP is coordinating with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to respond to potential fuel availability impacts following the Port of Tampa Bay fuel mixing issue. 
  • Florida’s water management districts’ webpages have been updated to include links for real-time tracking of water levels.
  • The Florida Department of Education is consistently updating their website with school district closures, as well as State University System and Florida College System Closures.
    • 32 County School Districts have issued closures.
    • Nine Florida State College Systems have issued closures.
    • Three State University Systems have issued closures.
    • One State Testing Site has issued closures.

Resources for Employees and Businesses

  • FloridaCommerce has activated the private sector hotline at 850-815-4925 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Inquiries may also be emailed to [email protected].
  • FloridaCommerce has alerted the statewide Community Action Agency (CAA) Network and Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) to initiate disaster preparedness activities. LWDBs and CAAs have been advised to submit their anticipated cash needs to ensure critical services to Floridians are not disrupted.
  • FloridaCommerce is hosting daily private sector coordination calls beginning Monday, August 28, 2023.  Briefings will be provided by SERT meteorology, fuels, communications, transportation, and energy, as well as private sector partners such as the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and VISIT FLORIDA.  
  • FloridaCommerce is in contact with local ESF 18 representatives in the anticipated impacted areas to support economic resiliency in their communities.
  • The following CareerSource locations will experience closures:
      • Citrus Levy Marion – from 5 p.m. on 8/28/23 through 8/30/23.
      • Pasco Hernando – from 8/28/23 through 8/30/23.
      • Tampa Bay – from 3 p.m. on 8/28/23 through 8/30/23.
      • CareerSource Gulf Coast Apalachicola Satellite Office- from 8/29/2023 through 8/30/2023.
      • CareerSource North Florida- from 12 p.m. 8/29/23 through 8/30/23.
      • CareerSource Florida Crown- from 8/29/2023 through 8/30/2023.
      • CareerSource North Central Florida- from 1 p.m. 8/29/2023 through 8/30/2023.
      • CareerSource Pinellas- from 8/29/2023 through 8/30/2023.
      • CareerSource Suncoast- from 8/29/2023 through 8/30/2023.
  • FloridaCommerce partners, including Walmart, Publix, Kroger, Avis, Waze and L3 Harris have indicated that they are monitoring and preparing their employees for potential impacts. Wells Fargo is supporting to ensure banking services remain available to Floridians. 
  • Rosen Hotels and Resorts is activating their Florida Residents Distressed Rates to give Floridians a safe, affordable place to stay during Tropical Strom Idalia. Evacuees can call 866-33-ROSEN (76736) to reserve a room.
  • VISIT FLORIDA has activated the Emergency Accommodations Module with Expedia to provide real-time availability of hotel rooms throughout the state.
  • DBPR has provided the Boil Water Notice Guidelines to food and lodging establishments throughout the impacted areas of the state to help businesses prepare for post-storm recovery.
  • The DBPR Division of Hotels and Restaurants is coordinating and preparing emergency response teams in the Big Bend, North Florida and Tampa Bay regions for a post-storm rapid response to assist lodging establishments and restaurants in reopening as necessary.
  • DBPR encourages Florida’s licensed contractors who are looking to help property owners in need of post-storm construction-related services to register with the Florida Disaster Contractors Network at org. DBPR is a founding partner in the Disaster Contractors Network, a contractor-verified clearinghouse to connect individuals with building professionals to address storm-related construction and repairs, and minimize fraudulent construction schemes seeking to take advantage of vulnerable Floridians after a storm.

Emergency Orders

  • Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has FLHSMV has issued Emergency Order 082623, which:
    • waives specific requirements for commercial motor vehicles providing emergency relief; and
    • waives the replacement fees for driver’s license and identification credentials, vehicle registrations and titles, vessel registrations and titles, and temporary parking permits for impacted individuals.
  • Following the issuance of the Governor’s Executive Order, DEP has issued an Emergency Final Order waiving permitting requirements for the storage and processing of solid waste, including hurricane debris.
  • DEP’s Emergency Final Order also removes barriers for expediting necessary repair, replacement, and restoration of structures, equipment, surface water management systems, works, and other systems that may be damaged by the storm. 
  • FDOT issued an Emergency Order to temporarily allow expanded weight and size requirements for vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services, and supplies.
  • State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed Emergency Order 23-001, which: 
    • Waives competitive procurement requirements in order to procure commodities, goods, and services expeditiously in response to the emergency. 
    • Permits emergency medical transportation services to operate across county lines.
    • Permits paramedics and EMT’s licensed in other U.S. states, territories, or districts to practice in Florida in response to the emergency without penalty.
  • Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has FLHSMV has issued Emergency Order 082623, which:
    • waives specific requirements for commercial motor vehicles providing emergency relief; and 
    • waives the replacement fees for driver’s license and identification credentials, vehicle registrations and titles, vessel registrations and titles and temporary parking permits for impacted individuals.
  • Following the issuance of the Governor’s Executive Order, DEP has issued an Emergency Final Order waiving permitting requirements for the storage and processing of solid waste, including hurricane debris.
  • DEP’s Emergency Final Order also removes barriers for expediting necessary repair, replacement and restoration of structures, equipment, surface water management systems, works and other systems that may be damaged by the storm.
  • FDOT issued an Emergency Order to temporarily allow expanded weight and size requirements for vehicles transporting emergency equipment, services, supplies, and agriculture commodities and citrus.

Tropical Storm Idalia Update of August 28, 2023, PM Update