Hurricane Ian was expected to strengthen quickly and hit Florida as a major storm this week

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Hurricane Ian strengthened as it neared the western tip of Cuba on Monday, on track to hit Florida’s west coast as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. Ian it was forecast to hit Cuba as a major hurricane before becoming an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Florida along a stretch of coast including the Tampa Bay area.

Tampa and St. Petersburg appeared to be among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane in a century.

“Please take this storm seriously. This is a real problem. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a storm preparedness news conference in Tampa on Monday, where mandatory evacuation were ordered.

As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in the county alone, County Administrator Bonnie Wise said at a news conference. Schools and other places were opened as shelters.

As of 11 a.m. EDT Monday, Ian was about 375 miles south of Key West, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference. The storm was moving northwest at 13 mph, about 240 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba. National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds increased to 80 mph.

Up to 10 feet of ocean water and 10 inches of rain were forecast for the Tampa Bay area, with up to 15 inches in isolated areas. That’s enough water to flood low-lying coastal communities.

Florida residents were preparing, standing in line for hours in Tampa to collect sandbags and clear store shelves of bottled water.

Nervous anticipation has led to long gas lines, crowded grocery stores and empty shelves, reports CBS’s Omar Villafranca in Clearwater, Florida.

“I’ve been trying to get water, but I can’t. There’s not much at this point,” a woman from South Florida he told CBS station WFOR-TV.


Hurricane Ian was expected to bring heavy rains, strong winds and rising sea levels to Florida

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Ian’s impending arrival also prompted NASA to pull out its own Artemis 1 rocket from the launch pad and back to the protection of the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building, likely ending any chance of launching an unmanned Moonshot before November.

“Many people in the Florida Peninsula and Florida Panhandle are at risk and need to be prepared to act quickly,” said Rick Knabb, hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel, “and the slow motion we expect from Ian. means we could have wind, storm surge and rain-induced flooding.”

A hurricane watch has been issued for Florida’s central west coast, including the Tampa Bay area, where Hillsborough County has suspended school through Thursday. With tropical storm-force winds extending 115 miles from its center, a watch was issued Monday from the Florida Keys to Lake Okeechobee.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm, which will hit large parts of the state with heavy rains, strong winds and rising seas.

“We’re going to continue to monitor the track of this storm. But it’s really important to emphasize the level of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday, warning that “even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the storm’s path, it’s going to have pretty broad impacts in the entire state.”

Hurricane Ian is seen in a satellite image on September 26, 2022 at 9:10 a.m. ET.
Hurricane Ian is seen in a satellite image on September 26, 2022 at 9:10 a.m. ET.

NOAA


Flash and urban flooding is possible in the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula through midweek, followed by heavy rainfall in North Florida, the Florida Panhandle, and the southeastern United States later this week.

The Hurricane Center advised Floridians to have hurricane plans in place and monitor updates on the storm’s evolving path.

President Biden also declared a state of emergency and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a planned trip to Florida on Tuesday because of the storm.

In Cuba, authorities suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and planned evacuations for Monday as Ian gathered strength as it approached Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.

“Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane-force winds, as well as life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” Daniel Brown, senior specialist at the National Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press.

The hurricane center said Ian was expected to reach far-western Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday and make landfall near the country’s most famous tobacco fields. Cuban state media Granma said authorities would begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas early Monday in Pinar del Rio. Classes were suspended there.

Cayman Islands Prime Minister Wayne Panton said in a video released Sunday that members of the government and the opposition are working together “to make sure our people are as safe as possible – supplies, plywood, in some cases sandbags are being distributed so that we can safely get through this storm… We have to prepare for the worst and absolutely pray and hope for the best.”

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