Hurricane Ian targets Florida and could reach Category 4

Hurricane Ian was on a collision course with Florida and could become a Category 4 storm after hitting Cuba and leaving the island nation without power on Tuesday.

The storm is expected to intensify as it moves across the warm Gulf of Mexico before reaching the Sunshine State’s southwest coast with winds of up to 130 mph.

Tropical-level winds were expected to batter the southern peninsula on Tuesday evening before the storm reached hurricane strength in the region on Wednesday. Naples at Sarasota were most at risk, the National Hurricane Center reported Tuesday during a 5 p.m. update.

“It’s starting to close in on the Florida peninsula” says Jamie Rhomethe acting director of the National Hurricane Center.

The Tampa Bay area would face a 4- to 6-foot storm surge, the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing a graphic from the Hurricane Center. Just south of Tampa Bay could be hit with an extreme thrust of 12 feet, according to the newspaper.

Storefronts are boarded up along Beach Drive in preparation for Hurricane Ian.
Hurricane Ian slammed into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane.
Hurricane Ian slammed into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane.

Flash, urban and small stream flooding could all spread to parts of Florida, with central and northern Florida expected to receive 12 to 18 inches of rain, with some areas even receiving up to 24 inches , reported the Tampa Bay Times.

A video posted on Twitter by a South Florida reporter showed that a storm surge was already flooding the streets of Key West.

“The wind and rain continue to be relentless as the storm moves north,” WSVN-TV reporter TJ Parker tweeted.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said about 100 shelters had been opened Tuesday afternoon for the 2.5 million people told to evacuate their homes.

“This thing is the real deal,” DeSantis said. “It’s a major, major storm.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Hurricane Ian:

The Republican governor and President Biden spoke by phone as they both pledged a close working relationship during the possibly catastrophic event, the White House press secretary said. Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted on Tuesday.

President Biden was also sending hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency employees to Florida and encouraging residents to listen to local officials.

Residents were leaving en masse to avoid the potentially deadly storm.

Gil Gonzalez packed up as he boarded his Tampa home as he placed sandbags around her earlier Tuesday.

“All the most valuable possessions, we put them upstairs in a friend’s house and nearby, and we loaded up the car,” Gonzalez said.

Officials across the state stressed the storm posed a major threat to life and property.

Hundreds of nursing home residents were evacuated, as were some hospitalized patients in the Tampa area. Airports were also closed in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Key West.

More than 2,000 flights were canceled due to the storm by commercial airliners with nearly 60 school districts closed Tuesday or closed for classes Wednesday, DeSantis said.

Coeval Gonzalez, right, and Gustavo Sakharov of Colombia tie sandbags on the Davis Islands beach.
Coeval Gonzalez, right, and Gustavo Sakharov of Colombia tie sandbags on the Davis Islands beach.

Several tourist attractions, such as Disney World and Sea World, were planning to close on Wednesday and Thursday while Busch Gardens was already closed before Ian.

A woman was staying at her home two blocks from the beach in Dunedin, west of Tampa. If the waters started to rise, she said she would go up to the second floor of her house.

“I’m a Floridian, and we know how to deal with hurricanes,” Kelly Johnson said. “It’s part of living in paradise – knowing that every now and then those storms come your way.”

With Ian threatening Florida, the storm has already devastated Cuba knocking out power to the country’s 11 million people. The country’s Electric Union said it was working to restore power from Tuesday night through Wednesday.

The storm also forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people as one of the country’s most critical tobacco plantations was badly damaged.

With post wires

New York Post

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