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Tropical Storm Ian to intensify, threaten Cuba, Florida

Sept. 25, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 25, 2022 at 8:34 p.m.

An undated photo provided by CIRA/NOAA shows a satellite image of Tropical Depression Nine, which became Tropical Storm Ian late Friday. Tropical Storm Ian could threaten Florida as a major hurricane this week after cutting across western Cuba, forecasters said.  (CIRA/NOAA)
An undated photo provided by CIRA/NOAA shows a satellite image of Tropical Depression Nine, which became Tropical Storm Ian late Friday. Tropical Storm Ian could threaten Florida as a major hurricane this week after cutting across western Cuba, forecasters said. (CIRA/NOAA)
By New York Times

New York Times

Tropical Storm Ian, which formed late Friday over the central Caribbean Sea, strengthened Sunday and was expected to become a hurricane near western Cuba before threatening Florida as a major hurricane this week, forecasters said.

Forecasters said that Ian, which was about 430 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba as of Sunday night, was expected to become a hurricane Monday and a major hurricane Tuesday. The storm was expected to strengthen rapidly Monday and Tuesday.

“Ian is going to be a large and powerful hurricane in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and spread its impacts over a large portion of the Florida Peninsula,” Jamie Rhome, acting director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a briefing Sunday.

A hurricane warning was in effect Sunday for areas in western Cuba, which could see “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds” beginning Monday, the Hurricane Center said. On Sunday night, the center issued a tropical storm watch for parts of the Florida Keys.

“Efforts to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” it said Sunday.

Ahead of the storm, some school districts in Florida announced closures. Hillsborough County Public Schools said it had “no choice but to close schools” Monday through Thursday because county officials planned to use many schools as storm shelters starting Monday. Pasco County Schools said schools and offices would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Florida Keys could get 2 to 4 inches of rain, with some areas receiving up to 6 inches through Tuesday evening, the Hurricane Center said, adding that flash and urban flooding could occur across the Keys and Florida Peninsula. Flash flooding and mudslides are also possible in high terrain in Jamaica and Cuba.

At a Sunday news conference, a day after declaring a state of emergency for all of Florida’s 67 counties, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida emphasized the continued uncertainty of the storm’s path.

“Just don’t think if you’re not in that eye, that somehow you don’t have to make preparations,” he said. He cautioned residents to anticipate possible power failures, fuel disruptions and evacuation orders.

While satellite imagery of Ian may not currently look “overly impressive,” that will change as the storm unfolds and become “a little unsettling as that satellite really builds out,” Rhome warned.

“A lot of people are going to run to the stores when they see that, so I stress that you use the rest of today to finalize your preparation while it’s calm,” he said.

“The surge vulnerability along the west coast of Florida is very extreme,” Rhome said, adding, “I’m telling you, it doesn’t take an onshore or direct hit from a hurricane to pile up the water.”

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said at the news conference that as of Sunday afternoon the division had 360 trailers loaded with meals and water ready to distribute to residents.

President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for 24 Florida counties that will unlock direct federal assistance.

Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands on Monday before moving near or over western Cuba late Monday and early Tuesday, forecasters said.

Ian is expected to generate 3 to 6 inches of rain in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and 6 to 10 inches in western Cuba, with up to 16 inches possible, the center said.

This rainfall could lead to flash flooding and mudslides in higher terrain areas, particularly in Jamaica and Cuba, forecasters said.

As of Sunday night, a hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa. A tropical storm watch was in effect for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque and Matanzas.

Ian is the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 39 mph.

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