Hurricane Ian intensified into a Category 3 storm on Tuesday as it moved toward Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), where high winds, heavy rain and dangerous storms are expected to unload and gather strength toward Florida, where it could make landfall as a powerful hurricane of Class 4.
In an update at 2:30 a.m. ET, the center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and was expected to make landfall over western Cuba soon.
Ian is expected to bring storms that could raise water levels up to 14 feet along the Cuban coast and unleash life-threatening winds and rain that can lead to mudslides and flash floods.
Forecasters said Ian is expected to strengthen as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida, where it could make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday.
Ian is expected to cause life-threatening storms along Florida’s west coast, according to the NHC, with the highest risks for those in Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay area.
The commission warned of increased heavy rainfall in the Florida Keys and southern Florida on Tuesday and will spread to central and northern Florida later in the week, where it could cause flooding.
Ian represents the first major threat to the US mainland this hurricane season, and Florida is preparing for emergencies. Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency ahead of the expected storm arrival and urged all residents to prepare, warning of possible flooding, power outages and evacuations across the state. While Ian’s exact path is unclear, it appears Tampa and St. Petersburg may face their first direct blow from a major storm in a century. The authorities in Cuba were also preparing for Ian’s arrival and had evacuated thousands of people in anticipation. The storm came on the heels of Hurricane Fiona, which battered parts of Canada over the weekend and wiped out nearly all of Puerto Rico’s electricity.
Hurricane Ian: Here’s what to expect as the storm approaches Cuba and Florida (Forbes)
A ‘nightmare’ for forecasters: Here’s why hurricanes are getting stronger and faster (New York Times)