Tropical Storm Ian was expected to quickly gain strength on sunday as it crossed the Caribbean towards Cuba and threatened to hit Florida’s west coast hard later in the week.
Ian was 570 miles southeast of Cuba early Sunday, sailing northwest at 12 miles per hour with 50 mph winds. Ian was expected to reach hurricane status on Sunday, then move across western Cuba Monday evening and early Tuesday.
“Significant” damage from wind and storm surge was expected, and the Cuban government upgraded the hurricane watch to alert. Ian was then expected to head for the southeast Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service said in its 11 a.m. update.
“Ian is expected to become a hurricane later today or tonight and reach major hurricane strength Monday night or Monday night before it reaches western Cuba,” said hurricane expert Brad Reinhart. at the National Hurricane Center.
Major hurricanes are Category 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5, with sustained winds over 110 mph. Such storms can cause “devastating” damage, many trees can be snapped or uprooted, and electricity and running water can sometimes be unavailable for days to weeks after the storm has passed, the weather service warns. .
IAN COULD SOON BE A MAJOR HURRICANE:Statewide emergency in Florida declared
John Cangialosi, senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center, said Floridians should begin preparations, including gathering supplies for potential power outages, he said.
“For those in Florida, there’s still time to get ready. I’m not telling you to close your shutters or do anything like that yet, but there’s still time to stock up,” he said. .
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the city’s sandbag cities are open. She urged residents to shop for several days now and check on family disaster kits and plans.
“Are you #TampaReady?” she tweeted. “It’s never too early to prepare.
The residents accepted. Shoppers at a Walmart Supercenter Tampa stocked up on supplies — and wiped out nearly 1,000 cases of bottled water in hours on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Weather reported.
NASA said Sunday it was monitoring Tropical Storm Ian but had not determined whether it would return the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the protection of the assembly building. The agency said it would “prioritize agency personnel and materials.” NASA officials, who canceled a launch scheduled for Tuesday due to the storm, planned to meet Sunday evening to assess whether to keep the vehicle on the launch pad to preserve an opportunity for a launch attempt on 2 october.
The latest information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Space Force and the National Hurricane Center indicated a “slower and potentially more westerly move in the storm’s track than yesterday’s forecast did.” ‘have shown, allowing more time for the agency’s decision-making process,’ NASA said in a statement.
Bethune-Cookman University canceled classes on Monday and said it would meet remotely on Tuesday.
“As a precaution and in the interest of the safety of members of our university community, the university has issued a mandatory evacuation from campus,” the school said in a statement posted on its website. The private, historically black University of Daytona Beach has approximately 2,750 undergraduate students.
The school has told its students that their smartphones are “computers” and that they should continue to use their cell phones to keep up with their studies in case they don’t have access to tablet, laptop, or office.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that the storm could hit the west coast of Florida – a target often missed. The US database shows that around 160 hurricanes, excluding tropical storms, have affected Florida. Only 17 made landfall on the west coast north of the Florida Keys.
Most storms typically track northeast or northwest, not up the coast, said AccuWeather senior weather editor Jesse Ferrell. There is no record of a hurricane having ever fully tracked Florida’s west coast since records began in 1944. But Ian appears to be taking a “very unusual track,” he said.
Florida has recently experienced storms that were hurricanes but downgraded to tropical storms before making landfall, Ferrell said. Elsa in 2021 made landfall just west of Tampa and Eta in 2020 made landfall north of Tampa at Cedar Key. However, the firepower was also not close to a Category 3 storm.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a pre-landfall state of emergency for all 67 counties on Saturday. The statement came after DeSantis’ statement in 24 counties on Friday afternoon.
“Floridians need to stay vigilant and ensure their households are prepared for a potential impact,” DeSantis said. Members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and on standby.
Ian will then move inland somewhere over the southeastern United States, or may follow near or along parts of the eastern seaboard later this week, The weather channel said, adding that it is too early to say where Ian will end up but there could be wind, torrential rain and other impacts extending to other parts of the East at the end of the week next.
President Joe Biden also declared a state emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance for protect lives and property.
Biden postponed a planned Sept. 27 trip to Florida due to the storm.
But Ian will do damage before he even reaches Cuba. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Grand Cayman by early Monday, with tropical storm conditions expected by Sunday evening, the weather service said.
Hurricane conditions are possible in the Cuba hurricane watch area by Monday evening or early Tuesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by late Monday. Tropical storm conditions are possible within the Cuba tropical storm watch area Monday evening and Tuesday.
Contributors: Christine Fernando and Claire Thornton, USA TODAY; The Associated Press