A rapidly intensifying Hurricane Ian strengthened to a category 3 storm early Tuesday, blasting Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph after making landfall in the western part of the country on its path toward Florida.
Ian was moving north and was about 10 miles north-northeast of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, as of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. update. Category 3 storms carry max sustained wind ranges between 111 mph and 129 mph, and Ian is expected to strengthen further on its approach to Florida, which is bracing for potentially life-threatening storm surges.
Tornadoes are possible Tuesday and Wednesday across the Florida Keys and the southern and central Peninsula.
A hurricane warning has been extended south along the west coast of Florida to Bonita Beach and includes Tampa Bay, while a tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of the eastern, northern and western coasts. A storm surge warning is also in effect for the Tampa Bay area, which means deadly inundation could hit within the next 48 hours.
A surge of up to 10 feet of ocean water and 16 inches of rain was predicted across the Tampa Bay area, with as much as 24 inches in isolated areas. That’s enough water to inundate low-lying coastal communities. Widespread flash and urban flooding are expected mid-to-late week across central and northern Florida, as well as some southern areas.
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast, near and to the right of the center, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves, NHC says. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle and can vary greatly over short distances, so people are advised to check their local weather offices for details.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for parts of Florida’s Hillsborough County a day ago, after Ian strengthened to a hurricane. It is expected to strengthen more Tuesday morning after Ian emerges over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. It is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane on Wednesday and Wednesday night after passing west of the Florida Keys later Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Take a look at the footage captured from the International Space Station of Hurricane Ian in the western Caribbean Sea.
“Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a Monday news conference on storm preparations in Tampa.
Florida residents were getting ready, lining up for hours in Tampa to collect bags of sand and clearing store shelves of bottled water. As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said at a news conference Monday on preparations.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded the declaration of a state of emergency Saturday to include the entire state.
By Thursday, Ian is expected to slow down and weaken along the Florida coast, making wind less of an issue — though rain will still be a primary, and potentially life-threatening, concern. Flash floods are likely in Florida as the storm continues its slow trek north, and parts of the Carolinas and Georgia could see similar threats later in the week.
Ian is expected to hit those areas as a tropical depression Thursday and Friday and trigger heavy rainfall in the southeastern U.S. Friday and Saturday before potentially barely clipping the tri-state area on Sunday. No significant local impacts are expected. South Jersey appears most likely to see heavy rain at this point, though flash flood risk is minimal.
The latest weather threat comes a week after Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Communities in southern parts of Puerto Rico were inundated with torrential rain and wild winds, amounting to more than 2 feet of water in spots as the threat of deadly mudslides loomed. Lago Cerillos, not far from Ponce, where Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico ahead of a second landfall in the Dominican Republic a day later, saw nearly 3 feet of rain.
President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico ahead of the storm, while the governor of Puerto Rico, as the worst of it hit, described “catastrophic” damages as the island plunged into darkness.
Source: NBC New York
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