(WGHP) – Idalia made landfall just before 8 a.m. Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane and was downgraded around 5 p.m. to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Idalia was briefly a Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday morning but downgraded to a Category 3 just before it made landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida.

The storm is moving northeast over coastal Georgia and is projected to move over the coastal Carolinas around Thursday morning.

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, the maximum sustained wind speed is clocking in at 60 mph.

On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced a State of Emergency for North Carolina ahead of the expected rains that could impact the coast.

Price gouging protections have been activated as well, according to the attorney general’s office.

Idalia’s impacts on the Florida Gulf Coast

On Tuesday, Idalia moved into an environment in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that was conducive to strengthening. For that reason, the National Hurricane Center forecasted steady to rapid intensification, which has proven true.

The eastern Gulf waters are incredibly warm which helped Idalia strengthen as it approached the Florida coast.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for the Florida Gulf Coast including Tampa Bay and the Big Bend region of Florida. A storm surge of 7 to 11 feet above ground level is expected between Chassahowitzka, FL and the Aucilla River.

Hurricane conditions are expected from Florida’s Big Bend to Sarasota with tropical storm conditions expected from Naples to Jacksonville. Hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings are in place for nearly the entire Florida Peninsula.

Tropical storm watches and warnings are also in place for southeastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina.

Areas of flash flooding and urban flooding, some of which may be locally significant, are expected across portions of Florida’s west coast and the Florida Panhandle. 

The flooding threats are then forecast to shift into southern Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday before spreading into portions of the eastern Carolinas by Wednesday and Thursday.

Local impacts from Idalia

While the Triad and central North Carolina are not within the “cone of uncertainty” for Idalia, it does not mean that we won’t see any impacts as the storm moves through the Carolinas. 

The cone of uncertainty shows the possible track of Idalia’s center of circulation but impacts are able to occur well outside of the area enclosed by the cone.

Portions of central North Carolina were impacted by Tropical Storm Idalia on Wednesday evening. 

The National Weather Service in Raleigh is stating that heavy rainfall and gusty winds will be the main threats associated with Idalia in central North Carolina, but the higher rainfall amounts and stronger winds will likely occur east of I-95.

The good news for the Piedmont Triad is that the forecast track over the last few days has trended slightly farther to the south and east.

This means that the more significant impacts to the Carolinas look more likely to occur south and east of the Triad in the central and southern Coastal Plains and the far eastern Sandhills. 

The Triad will likely see around 0.5 inches to 1 inch of rainfall with locally higher amounts of 1 to 2 inches possible. With how saturated the ground is in some areas of the Piedmont Triad, we’ll need to watch for flash flooding with any pockets of heavier rainfall that develop.

Data is also suggesting that winds could get a little breezy in the Triad late Wednesday through Thursday evening. The National Weather Service is forecasting sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph with wind gusts up to 35 mph possible.

Why is Idalia forecast to make an eastward turn?

In the Triad, we have a stationary front in place for the start of our week which is bringing us a few rounds of rainfall. The stationary front is one of the reasons that our impacts in the Triad will likely be limited. The front is acting as a “block” to help steer Idalia back over the Atlantic Ocean and towards Bermuda. 

We’ll also see a cold front approach on Wednesday around the time we begin to see Idalia approaching the Carolinas. As the cold front moves in from west to east, it’ll also help steer Idalia out into the Atlantic and away from the Triad. 

The timing of the arrival of the cold front with the arrival of Idalia will need to be closely monitored and is part of the reason why some models are still in slight disagreement as to when exactly rain and winds will arrive, how much rain we’ll see, and how long conditions will last.