Tropical Storm Ian is expected to “rapidly intensify” today, become a major hurricane within the next 48 hours and eventually hit Florida, but many questions remain, including when, where and how strong the storm will be at the time. to touch land.
In its 5 a.m. update on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Ian had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The storm was located about 345 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph. There is a hurricane warning in effect for Grand Cayman and a hurricane watch for parts of Cuba.
“The NHC intensity forecast calls for rapid intensification to begin later today, and forecasts Ian to be a major hurricane as it approaches western Cuba in about 48 hours,” the NHC said in its early Sunday update. By Tuesday, the storm is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds and a Category 4 on Wednesday with 140 mph winds.
Computer forecast models agree that Ian will arrive in Florida, but disagree where. “There are still significant differences regarding the exact path of the storm, especially after 72 hours,” the NHC warned.
Two models, the UKMET and the ECMWF, show that the storm will make landfall in west-central Florida. Two other models, the GFS and the HWRF, show the storm moving further west, bringing Ian toward central or western Florida.
The hurricane center’s current forecast track for the storm basically splits the difference between the different models with the NHC’s best guess. “It cannot be overstated that significant uncertainty remains in Ian’s long-term prediction,” the NHC warned.
Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, gale-force winds and heavy rains along Florida’s west coast and the Florida Panhandle by mid-week, and Floridians should make sure you have your hurricane plan in place, follow the advice of local officials, and closely monitor forecast updates,” the hurricane center said.
Throughout central Florida, the residents spent part of the weekend preparing for the possible arrival of Ian.
A Target store near Millenia had very few gallon bottles of water left on Saturday, as signs on the shelves limited purchases to four cases or bottles per customer.
“This is the third store I visit today,” said Maritza Osorio, who was leaving Target for a fourth location. “If not, we’ll have to try again tomorrow.”
There was less foot traffic through a Home Depot in the same plaza, with many people loading water into their carts while others bought slabs of plywood to use as shutters, along with other items.
While it’s not yet clear if, or how hard, Ian will hit if he attacks Central Florida, the likes of Gary Wilson aren’t taking any chances. He has had his hurricane kit ready with supplies weeks into the season and was at Home Depot for final preparations, just in case.
“If something happens, I’m ready,” Wilson said.
On Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency order for the entire Sunshine State, expanding on an order he issued on Friday that declared an emergency in two dozen counties. DeSantis also mobilized the National Guard to help with storm preparedness and recovery.
“This storm has the potential to become a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to prepare,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts from this storm.”
President Joe Biden also declared an emergency for the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect lives and property.
The president postponed a scheduled date for September 1. 27 trip to Orlando due to storm.
Cristóbal Reyes of Sentinel staff and Associated Press contributed to this report