Floodwaters inundated parts of the Tampa Bay region on Wednesday morning as Hurricane Idalia’s outer bands swept through the area, and officials warned water levels would continue to rise in some places leading up to the afternoon’s high tide.
The region remained under a storm surge warning Wednesday and the National Hurricane Center anticipated up to 5 feet of storm surge. Coastal areas like St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Gulfport and Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard flooded Wednesday morning.
Much of the region was seeing about 3 to 4 feet of surge, Nicole Carlisle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, said Wednesday morning.
“We are still looking at high tide coming in another few hours,” Carlisle said. “So this is kind of what we’ve been saying, is that the storm is not going to make landfall here but these southwest winds are going to continue to kind of push water over the land, at least through the afternoon hours.”
Across Tampa Bay, peak storm surge could occur sometime this afternoon, Carlisle said. Water levels will then recede, but water will likely linger in some spots until the evening.
Wednesday brought a full moon and a king tide, which happens once or twice a year and could cause storm surge from Idalia to reach about 1 to 2 feet higher than under normal tide conditions. The peak-high king tide is expected to arrive in St. Petersburg just before 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Authorities have closed off access to Pinellas County’s barrier islands early Wednesday morning as flooding inundated coastal areas. Storm surge prompted authorities to close the Courtney Campbell Causeway and the Howard Frankland Bridge.
Tampa Bay Times partner Spectrum Bay News 9′s Tim Wronka posted video of water pushing onto the Howard Frankland Bridge early Wednesday.
Storm surge is an abnormal rise in water brought ashore by strong winds from a hurricane or tropical storm. The highest surge typically occurs near the strongest winds of the storm. Hurricane Idalia was a Category 3 storm Wednesday morning when it made landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida, with wind speeds reaching 120 mph.
Preliminary data from stations that measure water levels in real time around Tampa Bay showed storm surge more than 4 feet above predicted normal levels on Wednesday morning. In Old Port Tampa, water levels reached about 5 feet above the predicted normal levels just before 10 a.m.
Across the bay, in St. Petersburg tide levels were about 4 and half feet above the predicted normal.
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