Hurricane Ian updates: Florida counties face evacuations from category 2 storm as winds reach 100mph

Central Florida stores struggle to keep water on shelves ahead of Tropical Storm Ian

Mandatory evacuations are underway in parts of Florida amid warnings of life-threatening conditions from Hurricane Ian in the coming days.

The powerful system will impact the Cayman Islands and western Cuba on Monday and is tracking to hit Florida as a major, Category-4 hurricane by mid-week. Conditions in western Cuba will deteriorate this evening with significant winds and storm surges of up to 14 feet.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has warned people to prepare but not panic. “This is a really, really big hurricane at this point,” Gov. DeSantis said.

Some 300,000 people are being evacuated in parts of Hillsborough county, which includes the city of Tampa, along with Manatee and Hernando counties. Pinellas County, which includes the cities of Clearwater and St Petersburg, will begin mandatory evacuations on Monday evening at 6pm.

There is risk of flash flooding, strong winds, storm surge of up to 10 feet, and possible isolated tornadoes along Florida’s Gulf Coast with impacts beginning up to 36 hours before the peak.

As Florida prepares, Atlantic Canada and parts of the Caribbean including Puerto Rico are still recovering from Hurricane Fiona last week.

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St. Pete-Clearwater Airport to shut down ahead of Hurricane Ian

As Hurricane Ian makes its way towards the US, towns and cities across Florida are waiting in tense anticipation.

St Pete-Clearwater International Airport announced on Tuesday it will close down on Tuesday afternoon, due to mandatory evacuation orders in Pinellas County, which includes numerous low-sitting, west-facing beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

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Florida State cancels classes as Ian approaches

Florida State canceled classes for its student population of over 30,000, as Hurricane Ian continues to gain strength.

Class will be out from Tuesday to Friday, while campus will be closed from Thursday to Friday, the university said in an update on Monday.

“As we continue to monitor Hurricane Ian, the safety of our FSU family remains our top priority,” university president Richard McCullough said in a statement.

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Hurricane Ian now category 2 as winds reach 100mph

Hurricane Ian is now a category 2 storm with sustained winds of up to 100mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5pm EDT update.

“It’s really starting to build out and getting impressive, indicative of a storm that’s still strengthening,” according to the NHC’s Jamie Rhome.

Forecasts showed the storm passing over the Florida Keys as soon as early Wednesday morning, before continuing to the rest of Florida later in the day, with coastal areas “very, very vulnerable to storm surge,” Mr Rhome added.

The NHC also said in a statement that “life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, flash floods and possible mudslides are expected in portions of western Cuba beginning this evening.”

A forecast of Hurricane Ian’s projected path

(National Hurricane Center)

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Hurricane Ian evacuations underway as Florida braces for impact: ‘Get out right now’

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for millions of thousands of people as Hurricane Ian charts a path towards the west coast of Florida with severe winds, flash flooding, storm surge and possible tornadoes.

Governor Ron DeSantis warned Floridians to prepare but not panic during a Monday briefing after the storm was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane.

“This is a really, really big hurricane at this point,” Governor DeSantis said. He added that the hurricane’s path was still uncertain meaning that it could “wobble” in or away from the peninsula.

Florida’s Gulf Coast is forecast to be severely impacted with conditions worsening up to 36 hours before the peak. Meteorologists report that Ian will be supercharged by warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico and could hit Florida as a monster Category 4 hurricane with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h).

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7,000 National Guard troops mobilized in storm response

As Hurricane Ian heads towards the Caribbean and Florida, 7,000 National Guard troops have been mobilized to aid in the storm response, Florida governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday.

Speaking at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, he said 5,000 guard members came from Florida, and will be joined by an additional force of 2,000 from Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The governor added that five urban search and rescue teams, as well as the US Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are standing at attention.

All 67 of Florida’s counties are under a state of emergency.

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Hurricane Ian strengthens on approach to Cuba, no major damage to Cayman Islands

Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.

Authorities in Cuba suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province, sent in medical and emergency personnel, planned to evacuate 20 communities “in the shortest time possible,” and took steps to protect food and other crops in warehouses, according to state media.

“Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane-force winds, also life threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” US National Hurricane Center senior specialist Daniel Brown told The Associated Press early Monday.

The hurricane center predicted areas of Cuba’s western coast could see as much as 14 feet (4.3 meters) of storm surge Monday night or early Tuesday.

A resident uses plastic as protection from the rain in Batabano, Cuba on Monday as Hurricane Ian approaches

(AP)

In Havana, fishermen were taking their boats out of the water along the famous Malecon, the seaside boardwalk, and city workers were busy unclogging storm drains ahead of the expected rain.

Havana resident Adyz Ladron, 35, said the potential for rising water from the storm worries him.

“I am very scared because my house gets completely flooded, with water up to here,” he said, pointing to his chest.

On Monday afternoon, Ian was moving northwest at 13 mph (20 km/h), about 195 miles (310 kilometers) southeast of the western tip of Cuba, with top sustained winds increasing to 85 mph (135 km/h).

The center of the hurricane was passing to the west of the Cayman Islands. No major damage was reported there on Monday, and residents were going back into the streets as the winds died down.

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Floridians prepare for Hurricane Ian amid warnings of several feet of storm surge

Residents of Orange County fill sand bags at Baldwin Park to protect their homes in preparation of Hurricane Ian on Monday, September 26, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

Residents of Orange County fill sand bags at Baldwin Park to protect their homes in preparation of Hurricane Ian on Monday, September 26, 2022, in Orlando, Florida

(AP)

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National Hurricane Center – latest 2pm update

The National Hurricane Center issued its latest update on Hurricane Ian at 2pm (EST).

The government of the Cayman Islands changed the Hurricane Warning for Grand Cayman to a Tropical Storm Warning.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

– Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

– Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas

– Lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge westward to Key West

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

– Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to Key West

– Anclote River southward to the Card Sound Bridge

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

– Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

– Little Cayman and Cayman Brac

– Englewood southward to Flamingo

– Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge to the Channel 5 Bridge

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case within 24 to 36 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours

A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life- threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours

Source: NOAA/National Hurricane Center

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Hurricane Ian near Cuba

Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.

Ian was forecast to hit the western tip of Cuba as a major hurricane and then become an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking Florida.

As of Monday, Tampa and St. Petersburg appeared to be the among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a news conference on storm preparations in Tampa.

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‘Get out right now’

As Pinellas County begins mandatory evacuations on Monday evening ahead of Hurricane Ian, a top law enforcement official was blunt in his assessment of the risk.

“Get out right now,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Monday.

The county, which includes the cities of St Petersburg and Clearwater, is projected to experience some of the most severe impacts from the hurricane.

Hurricane Ian is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 as it turns towards Florida’s Gulf coast. Pinellas county and neighboring areas could see up to 10 feet of storm surge.

At a press conference, the sheriff said that while residents will not be forced to leave, they were being urged to take the calls for mandatory evacuations seriously.

“What it means is, we’re not going to come help you. If you don’t do it, you’re on your own,” he said. More information on Florida’s evacuation zones can be found here.

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