As Tropical Storm Ian hurtles toward Florida — potentially strengthening into a Category 4 hurricane before hitting the state later this week — residents are preparing for what could be the Sunshine State’s first major hurricane in four years.
Ian, which developed in the central Caribbean Sea on Friday, is expected to increase rapidly on Sunday and become a Category 3 hurricane before reaching western Cuba early Tuesday. Ian is then expected to make landfall in the US, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
Ian is likely to remain a major hurricane as it crosses the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but “uncertainty over the long-term forecast and intensity forecast is greater than normal,” the spokesman said. National Hurricane Center said. Saturday’s forecast models varied as to where Ian would hit Florida and whether the landing would be on Thursday or Friday.
Forecasts have also shifted the storm’s path further west, placing the Florida panhandle and nearly the entire west coast of the state as a potential risk. Dangerous storm surges, hurricane-force winds and torrential rainfall are likely to follow in the storm’s path.
Across Florida, local officials are urging residents to be prepared for flash flooding and damaging winds.
“This is the calm before the storm,” Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann told DailyExpertNews on Saturday. “We’re experiencing this kind of adrenaline before a storm and the path could change at any time, but we want our citizens to be ready.”
Ian is about 395 miles southeast of Grand Cayman and is moving west at 13 mph (20 kph), according to the Hurricane Center Saturday night, with maximum sustained winds of up to 50 mph (85 kph).
A hurricane warning is in effect for Grand Cayman, and forecasters are increasingly confident that residents of western Cuba will face “life-threatening” storm surge and hurricane strength on Monday, the Hurricane Center said. Hurricane and tropical storm watches have been issued for parts of western Cuba.
As the storm approaches Florida, authorities are handing out sandbags and asking Florida residents to prepare their properties to reduce the risk of hurricane damage and to stock up. on supplies such as radios, water, canned food and medicines. Residents should also pack important documents and know their evacuation routes.
On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis extended an emergency order to every county in the state, saying conditions are “expected to be a major disaster.” President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement response efforts.
Concerns over Ian’s arrival have also delayed the third launch attempt of the Artemis I rocket, scheduled for Tuesday.
Ian would be the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2018 Hurricane Michael, a devastating Category 5 storm when it collided with the Florida panhandle. Michael also underwent rapid intensification before making landfall.
Storm surge — when the force of a hurricane or storm pushes ocean water onto shorelines — can be one of the greatest threats to a hurricane’s life and property.
This is the main reason Miami-Dade County residents are being asked to evacuate before a hurricane, according to county officials.
“We are outside the cone of uncertainty. We can’t relax,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told DailyExpertNews on Saturday. “We know there is always a possibility that it will shift. The storm is moving further west. This is when everyone needs to make sure they have a plan.”
Cava urged residents to ensure they have adequate food and water and to monitor their storm surge planning zone.
“We’re hopeful that we can handle it even with a big rainstorm,” Cava said. ‘We are on standby. We have additional pumps and we have been working with the South Florida Water Management District to lower channel levels.”
Miami-Dade County is preparing its “comprehensive shelter system,” including those fleeing the Florida Keys if evacuation is ordered there.
In Naples, Heitmann said she is already seeing lines at the gas stations as residents braced for the potential hurricane.
“They take it seriously and I encourage those who aren’t not to always take a storm seriously because you can never estimate where that storm will turn. And we have to be prepared and if it doesn’t come straight at us, it could have strong winds,” Heitmann said.
In Sarasota, authorities are checking generators, planning with local police, trying to estimate how much flooding is possible and warning residents to be prepared, Mayor Erik Arroyo told DailyExpertNews that.
“Don’t underestimate the dangers associated with gusts of wind, storm surges, floods, especially as we are a coastal city. So we’re telling them to go now, be prepared early,” Arroyo said.