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Hurricane Idalia: is it safe to travel to Florida right now?

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 storm on Wednesday, August 30, with maximum sustained winds at an estimated 120mph, according to the US National Weather Service. The life-threatening storm then moved on to southern Georgia during the course of the day, and is expected to cross over to South Carolina and possibly towards Bermuda as it progresses.

The latest public advisory, issued at 2am local time (7am BST) on Thursday, August 31, has downgraded Idalia to a tropical storm. It has also removed the hurricane and storm warnings in previous advisories but there remains a tropical storm warning and storm surge watch in North Carolina. If you’re due to travel soon, here’s what you need to know.

Main photo: Lily Gumos, 11, kayaks with her French bulldog on Hurricane Idalia floodwater in the Florida city of St Pete Beach (Alamy)

A man rides a bicycle through floodwaters from Hurricane Idalia in the Florida city of Gulfport
Cycling through floodwater from Hurricane Idalia in the Florida city of Gulfport (Getty Images)

Where is Hurricane Idalia right now and where is it heading?

At 8am local time (1pm BST) on Wednesday, August 30, the centre of the storm was near the Big Bend in northern Florida. Throughout the day, it moved in a north-northeasterly direction towards Georgia and South Carolina.

As of 2am local time (7am BST) on Thursday, August 31, the centre of the storm is at Litchfield by the Sea in South Carolina, about 80 miles up the coast from Charleston. The US National Weather Service predicts that it will continue moving northeast, along the coast of South Carolina and into North Carolina, before moving offshore into the Atlantic towards Bermuda.

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 storm, a hurricane, but has weakened as it progressed inland. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. However, wind speeds are still high, with maximum sustained winds at an estimated 60 mph, with the effects of the storm extending up to 205 miles from the centre of the storm.

Is there a live tracker where I can follow Hurricane Idalia?

The US National Weather Service is issuing live updates on Hurricane Idalia. A map can be found here.

Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck ay Walt Disney World 50th anniversary celebrations
Walt Disney World is operating as usual (Alamy)

Is Walt Disney World closing for the hurricane?

Hurricane Idalia has now passed through northern Florida. There was limited impact on central Florida where theme parks such as Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort are located. Both theme parks are operating as normal but closely monitoring the weather. In some cases, certain rides may be closed due to the weather conditions.

Floodwater in Crystal River, Florida, after Hurricane Idalia passed offshore
Floodwater in Crystal River, Florida, after Hurricane Idalia passed offshore (Getty Images)

Is it safe to travel to Florida during Hurricane Idalia?

In Florida, Hurricane Idalia mainly affected the northern parts of the state, where there were hurricane and storm surge warnings in place on August 30. These mean that people need to take precautions to protect life and property, and that the weather conditions are life-threatening. The warnnings have now been removed as the storm has moved on to South Carolina and significantly weakened.

However, you may still want to reconsider your travel plans if they involve the affected areas. Some areas are experiencing flooding, and the clean-up operation will have started. If you’re travelling to central or southern parts of Florida, you may experience high winds and heavy rain but these shouldn’t be life-threatening or dangerous. What the weather could affect is flights — you may end up being unexpectedly diverted or delayed if winds are too strong for landing or take-off.

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A Hurricane Idalia evacuee wades through floodwater in the Florida city of Tarpon Springs
A Hurricane Idalia evacuee in the Florida city of Tarpon Springs (Getty Images)

Can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday because of the hurricane?

You should speak to the company you’ve booked your holiday with in the first instance.

If you’re travelling to the affected areas during the hurricane or even immediately afterwards, elements of your trip may be cancelled already, in which case you should get a full refund. If you’ve booked your travel and accommodation separately, you may be able to negotiate to postpone your trip if only one or other elements of the booking are affected — otherwise you’ll need to turn to your travel insurance to recoup any costs.

If you’re travelling to an area that’s not affected by the hurricane, but may experience adverse weather because of it, you’re unlikely to get a refund if you want to cancel your trip.

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People drive an all-terrain vehicle through the flooded streets of Tarpon Springs after Hurricane Idalia
Getting through the streets of Tarpon Springs on an all-terrain vehicle (Getty Images)

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

Coverage for extreme weather varies from policy to policy but most travel insurance will provide some kind of cover. It’s best to check the fine print on your policy to see what you might be able to claim back. Typically it would include any expenses arising from disrupted or cancelled travel plans.

However, this is assuming you booked your break before Hurricane Idalia was named. If you made the booking after it’s been named, you’re unlikely to be covered by any insurance policies.

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