Hurricane Ian: tropical storm strengthens in the Caribbean and heads towards Florida

The ninth named tropical storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season has formed in the central Caribbean Sea and is expected to develop into a hurricane before hitting Florida. If so, it will be the first major hurricane to hit the state since 2018.

Tropical Storm Ian was located about 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica at 11 a.m. Saturday and was moving west at about 15 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasts show Ian “like a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf as it approaches the west coast of Florida” after briefly passing over Cuba, the center said Friday. Much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including the Eastern Panhandle, could be at risk.

Saturday morning forecast patterns vary depending on where Ian might make landfall on the Florida coast. The European model shows landing near Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon, while the US model shows landing near the Big Bend area of ​​the state early Friday morning.

The official hurricane center track splits the difference between the models, showing landfall near Tampa on Wednesday evening.

Tropical storm-force winds could begin to affect southwest Florida early Tuesday, with a possible landfall Wednesday.

After strengthening overnight, the storm – previously known as Tropical Depression Nine – has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and is expected to reach hurricane status within the next two days at approaching the Cayman Islands early Monday. . Further strengthening is expected as the system approaches and crosses western Cuba by Monday evening.

As it re-emerges into the warm waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the storm may reach major hurricane status with winds at or above 111 mph (178 km/h).

“Ian is likely to be near major hurricane intensity as it approaches western Cuba,” the hurricane center said. “Since Ian is not expected to remain over Cuba for long, little weakening is expected from this terrestrial interaction.”

If it strengthens to a Category 3 or more before reaching Florida, it would be the first major hurricane to make landfall there since Hurricane Michael in 2018, which was a monster Category 5 storm when it entered Florida. collision with the Florida Panhandle. Michael also underwent rapid intensification before landfall, a phenomenon that has been made more likely as ocean temperatures warm due to the climate crisis.

A hurricane watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands including Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac by the Cayman Islands Government. The government of Jamaica has issued a tropical storm watch.

A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is expected to investigate Ian and provide additional data later Saturday, the center said.

As the forecast intensifies, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday requested federal emergency aid in anticipation of the threat and also declared a state of emergency for 24 counties. Under the state-level emergency order, members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and awaiting orders.

The governor urged those in the potential path of the storm to prepare.

“This storm has the potential to develop into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to be prepared,” DeSantis said in a press release. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to monitor the potential impacts of this storm.”

Forecasters urge residents to prepare

It was a slow start to what was expected to be an above average hurricane season. Only one storm made landfall in US territory, and no hurricanes made landfall or threatened adjoining states.

Now, a week after the peak of hurricane season, the tropics appear to have woken up and forecasters fear people have let their guard down.

“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has picked up speed quickly,” tweeted Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.

“People tend to let their guard down and think, oh, yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Hurricane Center spokeswoman Maria Torres told CNN. “But in reality the season continues. We are still in September, we still have October. Anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something we have to watch very closely.”

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.

Either way, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida, and other states along the Gulf Coast, pay attention to updated forecasts this weekend through early next week.


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