It is expected to hit Florida’s west coast late Wednesday as a Category 3 storm, officials said.
“The National Hurricane Center is now predicting it will reach Venice in 35 hours at 125 miles per hour … making it a major Category 3 hurricane,” said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. press conference on Tuesday morning.
Tampa and St. Petersburg appeared to be among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane in a century. But the latest path projection means Ian is now expected to hit further south along the coast.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered for some areas around Tampa Bay on Monday, and officials asked others in the area to leave voluntarily.
“It’s important to say that you’re not out of the woods yet in the Tampa Bay region. There’s still going to be a storm surge in the Tampa Bay region,” Guthrie said. “You need to continue to heed the warnings that are in place for Pinellas, Tampa, Manatee, Hillsborough. If you’ve evacuated, don’t come back yet.”
Forecasters said tropical storms could begin along Florida’s southwest coast Tuesday evening. Hurricane conditions are expected along the state’s west coast Wednesday morning, they said.
“Strengthening is expected this morning after Ian emerges over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said he said. “Ian is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida as a dangerous major hurricane.”
On Tuesday morning, the storm battered Cuba with strong winds and life-threatening storm surges, forecasters said. Some areas saw up to 16 inches of rain, and a flurry of storms could raise water levels up to 14 feet along western Cuba.
Contributor: The Associated Press