Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023

Tropical Storm Ian is expected to “rapidly strengthen” this weekend and could hit Florida early next week as a major hurricane, according to forecasters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Tropical Storm Ian was moving across the central Caribbean Sea Saturday. By Saturday evening, it was located 255 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica, moving west at 16 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

“Ian is forecast to become a hurricane by late Sunday and a major hurricane by late Monday or early Tuesday,” the NHC said. 

Ian was forecast to pass west of the Cayman Islands Sunday night, and then near western Cuba late Monday, the NCH said. It could reach Florida by Tuesday.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist with National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it is currently unclear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida. He said residents should begin preparing for the storm, including gathering supplies for potential power outages.

“Too soon to say if it’s going to be a southeast Florida problem or a central Florida problem or just the entire state,” he said. “So at this point really the right message for those living in Florida is that you have to watch forecasts and get ready and prepare yourself for potential impact from this tropical system.”

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order issuing a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties that could be in the storm’s path. On Saturday, the state of emergency was expanded to cover the entire state. The order also places the Florida National Guard on standby. On Saturday night, the White House announced that President Biden had approved a federal emergency declaration for the state. 

The storm, forecast to make landfall along Florida’s West coast, poses risk of “dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, strong winds, hazardous seas, and isolated tornadic activity for Florida’s Peninsula and portions of the Florida Big Bend, North Florida, and Northeast Florida,” DeSantis said in an executive order Saturday.

He encouraged all Floridians “to make their preparations.”

Meanwhile, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands could receive anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain, the NHC forecasted. Cuba could see 4 to 8 inches, while southern Florida and the Florida could receive 2 to 4 inches.

High terrain areas in Jamaica and Cuba are at risk of flash flooding and mudslides, the NHC said, while the Cayman Islands could see storm surges of 2 to 4 feet above normal when Ian hits on Sunday night and Monday.  

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