Idalia live updates Tuesday: Hurricane watch triggered for Beaufort County

Hurricane Idalia in ‘rapid intensification’

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Idalia, now a Category 2 hurricane, was over the eastern Gulf of Mexico about 600 miles southwest of Charleston, packing 100 mph winds Tuesday afternoon. The storm is predicted to strengthen and make landfall Wednesday morning along the Big Bend region of Florida.

While Meteorologist Ron Morales from the Charleston office of the National Weather Service gave a 6 p.m. briefing for the Lowcountry, the area was already expected to get minor-to-moderate levels of coastal flooding Tuesday evening. He said that, for now, impacts will not be tremendous from Tuesday’s flooding.

Later Tuesday, Hurricane Idalia took a slight westward shift in track and also moved more inland.

“That’s good news for the coast, especially with the elevated tides,” Morales said. “When you combine rainwater with that, it can be a catastrophe.”

Morales said Idalia was in “rapid intensification” Tuesday evening. The greatest impacts for the southeast South Carolina coast remain on Wednesday and through Wednesday evening.

Predicted storm surge, between 2 and 4 feet, could impact some near-shore escape routes and secondary roads may become impassable or washed out, according to the briefing. The highest water level is expected to occur Wednesday night.

“(Storm surge is a) strange beast,” Morales said. “The hurricane center could keep the storm surge watch, which means it cannot issue a coastal flood warning.”

“Exact storm surge is highly dependent on storm track, timing and intensity of the storm,” the meteorologist reminded, adding that values could potentially be higher.

Morales said the earliest reasonable arrival time for potential tropical storm-force winds in Beaufort County was at about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Hurricane Franklin remains a major hurricane about 575 miles east-southeast of Charleston, according to the State Climate Office’s severe weather liaison Frank Strait. However, it is not expected to make landfall again.

-Sarah Haselhorst /

Beaufort Memorial Hospital

Updated 9:06 p.m.

From Dee Robinson at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, “this afternoon Beaufort Memorial officials announced updates about available outpatient services, including physician clinics, due to the expected severe weather associated with Hurricane Idalia.

  • Beaufort Memorial physician practices will close at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and then reopen at 9a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31.

  • Outpatient departments will see patients until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and reopen at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, including outpatient laboratory services.

  • Scheduled elective surgeries at the hospital and the Beaufort Memorial Surgery Center will continue as planned on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and Thursday, Aug. 31.

  • Radiation therapy, chemotherapy and infusion services will continue as planned on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Appointments have been rescheduled to start after 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31.”

- Sebastian Lee /

Hurricane watch triggered

Updated 5:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch for Beaufort County, meaning hurricane-force winds are possible somewhere within the area within the next 48 hours, according to the service. Peak wind forecast was between 45 and 60 mph with gusts to 75 mph. The area of concern is Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning.

Life-threatening storm surge is possible, the NWS said in its Tuesday evening alert. Possible peak storm surge inundation has the potential to reach 2 to 4 feet above ground somewhere within surge prone areas. Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning is also the window of concern.

A flood watch is still in effect with peak rainfall amounts an additional 1 to 3 inches, with locally higher amounts. The flooding risk has decreased since the last assessment, the NWS noted. The current situation is “favorable for tornadoes.”

The hurricane watch was issued shortly after S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a cautionary state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s expected arrival in the state, which is predicted to reach South Carolina as a tropical storm or depression.

No evacuations are currently planned for South Carolina, McMaster said.

The governor said he does not anticipate issuing any evacuation orders or closing state agencies or facilities, according to reporting by The State Media Co.

“I don’t think it’s going to be necessary to do that,” McMaster said.

A tropical storm warning, storm surge and flood watches remain in effect for Beaufort County.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

City of Beaufort closures

Updated 2:30 p.m.

The City of Beaufort is suspending normal operations Wednesday and Thursday. City offices will be closed to the public, but police, fire and public works departments will be at full staff to prepare for and respond to the storm.

- Karl Puckett /

Hilton Head Island Airport

Updated 2:30 p.m.

The Hilton Head Island Airport will remain open unless/until sustained wind speeds reach 35 mph. As of 2:25 p.m., no flights have been canceled or delayed. Cancellations and delays are decided by the airlines and not the airport.

John Rembold, Director of Airports for Beaufort County, said the best thing people can do is keep update with the airlines. The status of flights can be monitored on the airport’s website.

- Sebastian Lee /

USCB classes canceled

Updated 1:35 p.m.

Due to inclement weather from Hurricane Idalia, online and in person classes at the University of South Carolina - Beaufort are canceled Wednesday and Thursday, according to the school’s website. Residence halls and the Sand Shark dining halls are open but may have limited service due to potential power outages.

All other university offices will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. School officials expect to resume normal operations for classes and all services on Friday, the website said.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Technical College of the Lowcountry classes canceled

Updated 12:45 p.m.

All Technical College of the Lowcountry campuses will be closed Wednesday and Thursday due to Hurricane Idalia, according to an afternoon news release. All classes are canceled during this time. Employees will be working virtually, weather permitting, the release said.

Normal business operations are expected to resume Friday.

- Mary Dimitrov /

Beaufort County offices to shutter

Updated 12:15 p.m.

All Beaufort County buildings and programs will close Wednesday and Thursday due to Hurricane Idalia, a county news release said. Emergency services will remain available throughout.

  • Convenience Centers are closed Wednesday and Thursday.

  • County Parks and Recreation programs are canceled.

Hilton Head Island Airport and Beaufort Executive Airport are operating normally at this time, the county said, adding that as Idalia approaches, travelers need to check with their carriers for flight delays and cancellations.

“As we closely monitor the trajectory of Hurricane Idalia, County residents can rest assured that every appropriate County department is fully engaged in preparations to ensure the safety and security of our community,” said Interim County Administrator John Robinson.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Tropical Storm Warning triggered

Updated noon

A Tropical Storm Warning was issued for Beaufort County at 11 a.m., warning of high winds and gusts, life-threatening storm surge, flooding rain and potential for isolated tornadoes.

A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when tropical storm-force winds — sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph or higher — associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in 36 hours or less, according to the NWS.

Flood and Storm Surge watches are still in place.

During an 11:30 a.m. briefing, Morales said the confidence in Hurricane Idalia’s track is “absolutely increasing,” which means the confidence for predicted threats is solidifying. It’s a “pretty much sure bet” that the Lowcountry will get tropical storm-force winds and gusts, with the greatest likelihood blowing in Wednesday afternoon, Morales said.

Storm surge is expected to swell between 2 and 4 feet above normally dry ground. Morales added that 3 feet of storm surge is considered life-threatening. Morales said rainfall could be between 4 and 8 inches, with isolated higher amounts, with Wednesday night dropping the most. Flooding, especially in flood-prone areas, has a high likelihood of occurring.

“(Rain) will come down in kind of a hurry,” Morales said, adding that total rainfall would accumulate within about 12 hours.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Calm before the storm at Whitehall Boat Landing on Lady’s Island looking toward Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.
Calm before the storm at Whitehall Boat Landing on Lady’s Island looking toward Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport status

Updated 11:15 a.m.

The airport will remain operational, media spokesperson Lori Lynah said Tuesday morning. However, they are expecting delays.

As of 11:15 a.m., no delays have been announced, Lynah said.

Up-to-date information can be found at the airports arrivals / departures section of their website. Airlines control flight times, not the airport, so the best thing those with a flight to catch can do, Lynah said, is stay in touch with the airlines.

- Sebastian Lee /

Wednesday, Thursday eLearning

Updated 11:00 a.m.

Beaufort County schools will have eLearning and remote work days Wednesday and Thursday due to Hurricane Idalia, according to the district. Extracurricular activities are canceled and buildings will be closed on both days.

Teachers should provide students information about eLearning. If families are traveling or have power outages the district recommends they reach out to teachers once possible so they can made accommodations.

- Mary Dimitrov /

Idalia strengthens to a hurricane Tuesday morning

Updated 8:30 a.m.

Early Tuesday morning Idalia strengthened to a hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico after it scraped Cuba’s western shoreline, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expect Idalia will ramp up to a Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday morning when it makes landfall along the west coast of the Big Bend region of Florida, the center said.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, Idalia was about 325 miles south-southwest of Tampa, the center reported. Idalia was heading north at 14 mph, with maximum sustained winds up to 80 miles per hour.

In the Lowcountry, a 6 a.m. Tuesday briefing from the National Weather Service’s Charleston Office reported Idalia would track near the coast as a Tropical Storm late Wednesday morning through Thursday morning.

Heavy rainfall, between 4 and 8 inches, flash flooding and storm surge with high tide remained possible effects from Idalia. A moderate-to-high probability of tropical storm force winds remains, especially along the coast, NWS said. Dangerous rip currents, high surf and significant beach erosion are possible. A risk for tornadoes remains for the state’s southeast coast throughout Wednesday.

Tropical Storm and Storm Surge watches were in place for Beaufort County on Tuesday morning. Throughout Wednesday, the county will be under a Flood Watch. A rip current statement also remains in place. Watches indicate the threat is possible somewhere within the area within the next 48 hours.

“Details regarding the track, intensity, and timing of Idalia are still being refined,” the service reminded.

Hurricane Franklin, a Category 4 hurricane, remains “formidable,” however it’s not expected to make landfall again. But its wake still makes for life-threatening surf and and rip currents along the southeast coastline, the National Hurricane Center reported.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Increasing impacts for the Lowcountry

Updated 6:45 p.m.

While Tropical Storm Idalia hadn’t strengthened into a hurricane as it moved in the Caribbean Sea, the storm was packing winds of 70 mph Monday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center expects Idalia to move into the Gulf of Mexico and become a major hurricane that will make landfall in Florida early Wednesday.

Forecasters say Idalia’s landfall will be near Horseshoe Beach, a western shift in the track, according to Miami Herald reporting. However, meteorologists said “the track will continue to flip-flop east and west as the storm approaches.”

In the Lowcountry, effects from Idalia could be seen as early as Tuesday evening with the height of concern throughout Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service Charleston Office’s Meteorologist Ron Morales.

Morales said impacts from Idalia are increasing for the Lowcountry, with wind, storm surge, flooding rain and marine conditions as the main concerns. He added that the area Idalia is headed for in the Gulf is “notorious for rapid intensification.”

After Idalia makes landfall, the storm is predicted to cross the “Florida Panhandle through, maybe, the southeast portion of Georgia and then really kind of (scrape) all along our coasts,” Morales said during a Monday evening briefing. However, he warned not to focus on the exact track this far out.

According to the current forecast, there’s a potential for 58 to 73 mph winds along the southeast South Carolina coast. Morales said to “at least” prepare for low-end hurricane wind gusts.

The greatest impact for storm surge is expected to happen Wednesday night with high tide. In Beaufort County, without the rainfall, high tide will swell to 9.1 feet at about 9:30 p.m. The highest potential shows water above normally-dry ground rising up to 3 feet.

“Not everywhere will get the same amounts (of rainfall),” Morales said. “Some may get lucky and the winds are offshore ... during high tide Wednesday evening. So not everybody will experience it. Some will get worse than others. We just don’t know where yet.”

There is a potential threat for isolated tornadoes, the meteorologist added, but it depends if the storm tracks more inland. The more inland Idalia’s wake is felt, the higher the threat for tornadoes.

“Again, these are potentials that we want to prepare for,” Morales reiterated.

The State Climate Office’s severe weather liaison Frank Strait wrote in a Monday evening email that how much storm surge will impact the South Carolina’s coast “will depend on the timing, track, and intensity of Idalia” moving through the state. Strait explained that storm surge is a big concern because the area is entering a period of high astronomical tides.

According to tide charts via the US Harbors site, Beaufort County’s Wednesday morning high tide will reach 8.2 feet at about 9 a.m. The evening high tide at 9:30 p.m. will swell to 9.1 feet. Thursday morning’s 9:50 tide is predicted to reach 8.6 feet. Those values are without potential rainfall amounts from Idalia.

“The bottom line here is that the surge could be worse than forecast and you should be paying close attention to the storm surge forecast for your area if you’re a coastal resident,” Strait wrote.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Tropical Storm, Storm Surge watches triggered

Updated 5:30 p.m.

Awaiting still-Tropical Storm Idalia, Tropical Storm and Surge watches were triggered for Beaufort County at 5:07 p.m. Monday.

A Storm Surge Watch means life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline is possible somewhere within the county within the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service. As of Monday early evening, peak surge inundation was between 2 and 4 feet above ground somewhere within surge prone areas. The service outlined Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning as windows of concern.

Storm surge flooding can damage buildings near the coast, roads, marinas, docks boardwalks and piers.

Peak rainfall amounts will accumulate between 3 and 6 inches, with locally higher amounts, the NWS said. Streets and parking lots could become flooded, and drinking water and sewer services could be negatively impacted.

“Water will be the big issue for the Carolinas from #Idalia Rainfall + Surge + King Tides, and don’t forget #Franklin is still sending swells towards the coast as well,” wrote Charlotte, North Carolina, meteorologist Brad Panovich in a Facebook post. The rainfall totals are really high here & with onshore flow & surge water trying to move out of rivers runs into the surge. Water levels are going to be high.”

Panovich warned residents in flood-prone areas to begin making plans to move inland or to higher ground.

A Tropical Storm Watch indicates that tropical storm-force winds are also possible within the next 48 hours, the National Weather Service said.

The NWS predicted peak winds could reach 45 to 60 mph with gusts to 70 mph. The window of concern was Wednesday afternoon until early Thursday morning. Hazardous winds can cause roof and structural damage, snapped or uprooted trees, airborne projectiles, impassable roads, and power and communication outages.

A rip current statement is also in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

- Sarah Haselhorst /

Rainfall, winds biggest concern

Updated 11:40 a.m.

Monday morning, Tropical Storm Idalia brewed near the western tip of Cuba on Monday morning, with the forecasters predicting the storm to soon strengthen to a hurricane, and had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

Beaufort County could get between 4 and 8 inches of rain, strong, gusty winds, flooding, dangerous rip currents and severe erosion could pummel the Lowcountry beginning Wednesday evening, according the National Weather Service Charleston Office.

During a Monday morning National Weather Service Charleston Office briefing, Meteorologist Steven Taylor said Lowcountry weather conditions will begin to “steadily deteriorate” Wednesday and peak in the evening and into early Thursday.

“If the winds stay onshore and the system ends up being slower, the risk for coastal flooding and significant impacts will increase along parts of the Georgia coast and linger even longer up in the lower South Carolina coast,” Taylor said.

The “big concern” from Idalia’s wrath will be rainfall and freshwater flooding, which when considering the already-high tides, could devolve into “major flooding,” Taylor said. Marine conditions, including dangerous rip currents that are currently rippling along the southeast coast, will also be of concern.

Beaufort County was at a moderate risk for flash flooding and potential tornadoes throughout Wednesday, according to the local service Monday.

- Sarah Haselhorst /