HURRICANE UPDATE | Idalia upgraded to Category 2 ahead of making landfall

Kemp declares state of emergency in Georgia in preparation for storm

Hurricane Idalia was upgraded to a Category 2 on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency across Georgia in anticipation of the storm.

Idalia, which continues to intensify in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to make landfall around daybreak Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend region as a major Category 3 hurricane before weakening and moving inland into Georgia. The storm track predictions show it will move close to the Carolina coastline Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Georgia’s coastline is expected to bear the brunt of Idalia’s impacts in the state, and tropical storm warnings and storm surge watches have been issued for all of southeast Georgia. Hurricane warnings have been issued for several counties along the Florida border, with winds the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane expected within the next 36 hours.

Several schools and universities in coastal Georgia plan to shift to online learning for the next few days, while Savannah Mayor Van Johnson has announced a 12-hour curfew in his city starting Wednesday at 6 p.m.

By 8 p.m. Tuesday, Idalia was located about 155 miles southwest of Tampa and its maximum sustained winds had increased to 105 mph. It was moving north at 16 mph and picking up steam over the deep, warm waters of the Gulf, according to the Hurricane Center.

“Idalia continues to strengthen. Likely to become a major hurricane soon,” the agency said at 8 p.m.

Kemp’s state of emergency declaration will make all state resources available to assist in preparation, response and recovery operations for a period of 10 days, expiring Friday, Sept. 8, at 11:59 p.m. unless renewed. It is effective immediately.

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Florida, making more federal assistance available, while Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida’s National Guard was mobilizing 1,100 personnel.

Those in the path of the hurricane can seek refuge at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is opening its facility to storm evacuees. The Hampton racetrack will provide camping space for free. In addition, a limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer will be available for $35 per night.

Ahead of Idalia’s arrival, metro Atlanta was expecting to get another 2 inches of rainfall Tuesday, creating conditions for flash flooding and the possibility of another messy evening commute.

Strong storms Monday evening flooded several major highways and knocked out power to thousands across the state. In Cobb County, Spring Hill Parkway south of Cumberland Boulevard remains closed after a storm drain failure that washed out the road, according to county officials.

TRAFFIC ALERT Spring Hill Parkway south of Cumberland Blvd will remain closed for the next few weeks. -- Cobb DOT is...

Posted by Cobb County Government on Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Cobb hopes to start repair work by the end of this week, but the road will likely remain closed for several weeks. Detours are available from both directions in the meantime.

Even more rain is in the metro Atlanta forecast Wednesday, with a 60% chance of a shower or storm, as Hurricane Idalia moves into southeast Georgia.

As a Category 3 hurricane, Idalia could pack a punch, with sustained wind speeds of 111 to 129 mph at landfall. The storm’s outer rain bands could reach south metro Atlanta later Wednesday, but minimal impacts are expected locally. Breezy conditions could reach the city, too.

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

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Credit: WSBTV Videos

Another round of heavy downpours in today's forecast