PERRY, Fla. – Hurricane Idalia briefly strengthened to a dangerous Category 4 storm Wednesday morning as it steamed toward Florida’s Big Bend region and threatened to unleash life-threatening storm surges and rainfall.
Idalia was projected to come ashore early Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of at least 130 mph in the lightly populated Big Bend region, where the Florida Panhandle curves into the peninsula. The result could be a big blow to a state still dealing with lingering damage from last year’s Hurricane Ian.
Idalia became a Category 3 once again, with wind speeds up to 125 mph, at 7 a.m. while still just off the Gulf Coast.
The NHC said Idalia made landfall along the coast of the Florida Big Bend near Keaton Beach around 7:45 a.m.
As of 9 a.m., Idalia was further downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane with wind speeds up to 110 mph — located about 20 miles south-southwest of Madison, Florida — moving north-northeast at 18 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended outward 25 miles from the center, while tropical storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles from the center of the storm.
[LIVE VIDEO: USE MEDIA PLAYER TO VIEW FEED FROM PERRY, FLORIDA, IN BIG BEND REGION]
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend.
Hurricanes are measured on a five category scale, with a Category 5 being the strongest. A Category 3 storm is the first on the scale considered a major hurricane. The National Hurricane Center says “catastrophic damage will occur” during a Category 4 storm.
At 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Idalia was about 60 miles west of Cedar Key and 90 miles south of Tallahassee, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north at 18 mph.