Authorities and residents of Florida were keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it barreled through the Caribbean on Sunday, expected to continue to gain strength and become a major hurricane forecast for the state in the coming days.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida the day before, expanding the original order that affected two dozen counties. He urged residents to prepare for the storm, which could lash large parts of the state with heavy rains, strong winds and rising seas.
Forecasters still aren’t sure exactly where Ian could make landfall, with current models projecting it toward the west coast of Florida or the belted areas, he said.
“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, cautioning that “even if you’re not necessarily right about the eye of the storm’s path, there will be fairly broad impacts throughout the state.
President Biden also declared a state of emergency and directed the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect life and property. The president postponed a planned trip to Florida until September 27 due to the storm.
The This was reported by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Ian was expected to begin a “rapid recovery” on Sunday. The storm was located about 265 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman at 2 p.m. Sunday and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
“Rapid strengthening is expected to begin this evening. Ian is expected to become a hurricane early Monday and reach major hurricane strength Monday evening or early Tuesday before making landfall over western Cuba,” the NHC said.
Ian was forecast to pass west of the Cayman Islands early Monday and then near western Cuba late Monday and early Tuesday, the NHC said. It could reach Florida later in the week, bringing the possibility of flash flooding to the Florida Peninsula and Florida Keys, the agency added.
“Heavy rainfall may affect northern Florida, the Florida Belt and the southeastern United States on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” the NHC wrote in a Sunday morning advisory.
John Cangialosi, the center’s chief hurricane specialist in Miami, said in an interview Sunday that it was unclear exactly where Ian would hit the hardest. He said Floridians should start making preparations, including stockpiling supplies for possible power outages.
“It’s hard to say, stay tuned, but it’s the right message right now,” Cangialosi said. “But for those of you in Florida, there’s still time to prepare. I’m not telling you to close your shutters or anything like that just yet, but there’s still time to stock up.”
In Pinellas Park, near Tampa, people waited in line at Home Depot when it opened at 6 a.m., Tampa Bay Times reported. Manager Wendy Macrini said the store had sold 600 cases of water by early afternoon and had run out of generators.
People also bought plywood to put on their windows: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” Matt Beaver of Pinellas Park told the Times.
On Friday, DeSantis signed the contract implementing regulation is issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties that could be in the storm’s path. On Saturday, the state of emergency was extended to the entire state. The order also puts the Florida National Guard on alert.
The storm poses a risk of “dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, high winds, hazardous seas and isolated tornado activity for the Florida peninsula and parts of Florida’s Big Bend, North Florida and Northeast Florida,” DeSantis said in his guidance. order on saturday.
He urged all Floridians to “get ready.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands could see 3 to 6 inches of rain, the NHC predicted. Cuba saw 4 to 8 inches, while South Florida and Florida saw 2 to 4 inches.
High-altitude areas in Jamaica and Cuba are at risk of flash flooding and mudslides, the NHC said. Cuba could see storm surges of 9 to 14 feet above normal when Ian hits Monday night and early Tuesday morning.