Ian expected to become a major hurricane threatening Cuba, Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. >> Florida authorities and residents kept a wary eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it rumbled ominously through the Caribbean today, likely becoming a major hurricane on its way into the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency across Florida, urging residents to prepare for the storm, which will sweep large parts of the state with torrential rain, high winds and rising seas.

Forecasters are still unsure exactly where Ian might land, with current models projecting it toward Florida’s West Coast or Panhandle regions, he said.

“We will continue to monitor the trail of this storm. But it’s really important to emphasize the level of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference today, warning, “Even if you’re not necessarily directly in the eye of the storm, it will have a nice broad impact across the country.” “

The National Hurricane Center said Ian is expected to become a hurricane on Monday and reach major hurricane strength on Tuesday. Flash flooding and urban flooding are possible in the Florida Keys and Florida Peninsula through mid-week, and heavy rains were possible later this week in northern Florida, the Florida Panhandle and the southeastern United States.

The agency placed a tropical storm watch over the lower Florida Keys tonight, advising Floridians to prepare hurricane plans and monitor updates on the storm’s evolving path.

A hurricane warning was issued today for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.

Cuban state media said emergency authorities met to plan for the storm’s arrival and prepare for evacuations, although none have been ordered to date. The National Hurricane Center’s track forecast shows a severe storm will hit the far west of the island early Tuesday, near the country’s most famous tobacco fields.

President Joe Biden also declared a state of emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect life and property. The President postponed a scheduled trip to Florida on September 27 because of the storm.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist for the Miami-based center, said in an interview today that it’s not exactly clear where in Florida Ian will be hit hardest. Residents should begin preparations, including getting supplies for possible power outages, he said.

“It’s hard to say, stay tuned, but that’s the right message now,” Cangialosi said. “But for those in Florida, there’s still time to prepare. I’m not telling you to put up your shutters or anything, but there’s still time to get your supplies.”

Local media in Florida has reported a consumer rush for water, generators and other supplies in some areas, where residents have relocated to stock up on supplies ahead of the storm.

Florida Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie said the state has begun loading trailers with more than 2 million meals and more than 1 million gallons of water in readiness to be sent to affected areas. He said the state has been in frequent communication with local governments and is processing requests for resources.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp today activated the State Operations Center to respond to potential storm damage. He urged residents to watch the weather and calmly take precautions if necessary.

At Kennedy Space Center, NASA closely watched Ian’s projected path while debating whether to take their New Moon rocket off the launch pad and into a shelter. Managers have already postponed the test flight from this week to the next because of the storm.

Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona crashed ashore in Nova Scotia in Atlantic Canada on Saturday, washing homes into the sea, ripping off roofs and knocking out power to more than 500,000 customers in two provinces.

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