Hurricane Ian approaches Cuba to hit Florida as a Category 4 storm
Hurricane Ian moved near the Cayman Islands and closer to western Cuba early Monday on a track to hit Florida as a major hurricane this week.
Ian was expected to rapidly intensify and become a major hurricane by Monday evening before becoming an even more powerful Category 4 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before hitting the west-central Florida coast on Wednesday.
Cuban authorities suspended classes in the province of Pinar del Rio and scheduled evacuations on Monday as Ian gained strength as he approached Grand Cayman and Cuba’s provinces of Isla de la Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.
« Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane-force winds, along with potentially deadly storm surges and heavy rains, » the senior specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center told The Associated Press on Monday. , Daniel Brown.
The hurricane center said Ian is expected to reach far western Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday, striking 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 have been suspended there.
As of 8 a.m. ET Monday, Ian was moving northwest at 22 km/h, about 145 kilometers west-southwest of Grand Cayman, according to the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h.
Likely additional reinforcement
Cayman Islands Prime Minister Wayne Panton said in a video released on Sunday that government and opposition members were working together « to ensure our people are as safe as possible – supplies, plywood, in some cases the sandbags, are distributed so that they can weather this storm safely… We must prepare for the worst and absolutely pray and hope for the best. »
The hurricane center said, « Ian is not expected to spend much time over western Cuba, and further strengthening is likely over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. Ian is expected to have a field of expanding and slowing winds at that time, which has the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along Florida’s west coast. »
A surge of up to 2.4 meters of sea water and 25 centimeters of rain, with up to 38 centimeters in isolated areas, has been forecast for the Tampa Bay area. That’s enough water to flood low-lying coastal communities.
Hurricane #ian Opinion 13A: an additional rapid strengthening is expected today. Ian will produce significant wind and storm surge impacts in western Cuba. https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB
Florida residents braced themselves, lining up for hours in Tampa to pick up sandbags and clean shelves at bottled water stores.
A hurricane watch has been issued for Florida’s west-central coast, including the Tampa Bay area, where Hillsborough County suspended classes through Thursday to prepare schools to serve as shelters for evacuees . Additional watches for areas further north along the west coast of the peninsula may be issued, Brown said.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency across Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm to hit large swathes of the state with heavy rain, high winds and rising seas.
« We will continue to monitor the path of this storm. But it’s really important to highlight the degree of uncertainty that still exists, » DeSantis said at a press conference on Sunday, warning that « even if you don’t not necessarily right the eye of the storm’s path, there will be fairly broad impacts across the state. »
Flash and urban flooding are possible in the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula through the middle of the week, then heavy rains were possible for northern Florida, Florida and the southeastern United States more late this week.
The agency advised Floridians to put hurricane plans in place and watch for updates on the changing path of the storm.
US President Joe Biden has also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a planned Sept. 27 trip to Florida because of the storm.