Jul 21, 2023

Terrifying Video of Hurricane Idalia From Space Reveals Size of Storm

The "frightening sight" of Hurricane Idalia stretching across the sea as seen from a satellite orbiting earth has gone viral on social media, attracting 150,000 views since Tuesday night.

The clip, produced by NASA, shows the breadth of the Category 3 storm, which is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 by the time it bears down on the western Florida coast on Wednesday—bringing winds of at least 130 miles an hour.

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center are predicting coastal storm surges of as much as "16 feet above ground level" and destructive waves in Florida's Big Bend. They also warned of potentially "life-threatening winds" when the core of the storm makes landfall and flooding in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina into Thursday.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee, an area which could fall in the path of the hurricane, described it as "an unprecedented event" as no major hurricanes on record have ever moved into the Apalachee Bay, which sits at the northern end of the Big Bend.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis temporarily paused his presidential primary campaign at the weekend to help coordinate emergency preparations ahead of the storm.

"This hurricane is making landfall in an area that has substantial debris, and we are prepared to surge resources to clear roads and restore power as quickly as possible," he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

According to CBS News, the satellite imagery of the impending storm was captured at 11:25 a.m. ET on Tuesday while over the Gulf of Mexico. The video was captured from the International Space Station, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"This is frightening sight of Hurricane Idalia from space," Vishal Verma, who posted the video to X, formerly Twitter, wrote, adding: "Brace yourself Florida, Cat 4 incoming!"

This is frightening sight of Hurricane Idalia from Space which has been just upgraded to Category 4 storm!Brace yourself florida, Cat 4 incoming!#HurricaneIdalia #Florida

NASA's Earth Observatory wrote on Tuesday that the movement of the storm was being "fueled by unusually warm water" in the Gulf of Mexico, with sea surface temperatures as high as 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as of Saturday.

Warmer seawater evaporates easier, allowing a cyclone to draw in more moisture and grow in intensity. Noting that the temperatures were 1-2 degrees Celsius above historic averages, Patrick Duran, a tropical cyclone scientist at the Marshall Space Flight Center, said: "This very warm water will provide more energy to the storm than would be available if temperatures were closer to average."

The National Hurricane Center expects that after making landfall before midday Wednesday, Idalia will move northeast across northern Florida and into Georgia, reaching the latter's border with South Carolina by 8 p.m. ET.

From there, it is expected to arc across South Carolina's coastline before impacting coastal regions of southern North Carolina some time after 8 a.m. on Thursday. Idalia is then anticipated to move back out into the Atlantic, though northern parts of North Carolina could still see tropical storm conditions.

However, the National Hurricane Center wrote in a forecast on Tuesday evening that "uncertainty in the track forecast beyond 48 hours remains quite large" as while regional models suggested it moving eastward back out to sea, global models suggest Idalia could travel southwards.

Idalia is just the latest tropical storm to batter the U.S. this hurricane season. Earlier in the month, Storm Hilary brought flooding to southern California in a rare case of a tropical storm making landfall on the Pacific coast.

Meanwhile, a series of named storms in the Atlantic brought heavy rain to Puerto Rico and other islands in the Gulf of Mexico, but several petered out before posing issues for the continental U.S. One of them, Storm Franklin, remains active in the Atlantic and could bring potentially deadly rip currents to the Eastern Seaboard.

Newsweek approached NASA via email for further comment on Wednesday.