On Monday, Hurricane Ian approached the western tip of Cuba to make landfall on the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.it is forecast to make landfall in Cuba as a major hurricane before becoming an even stronger Category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in Florida along the coast, including the Tampa Bay area.
Tampa and St. Petersburg emerged as among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane in a century.
“Please take this storm seriously. This is a real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a storm preparedness news conference Monday in Tampa, where some mandatory evacuations were ordered.
Up to 300,000 people could be evacuated from low-lying areas in the county alone, County Administrator Bonnie Wise said at a news conference. Schools and other places were opened as shelters.
Yang was about 375 miles south of Key West at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference. The storm was moving northwest at 13 mph, about 240 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba, according to National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained wind speed increased to 80 mph.
Up to 10 feet of ocean surge and 10 inches of rain were forecast in the Tampa Bay area, with up to 15 inches in isolated areas. That’s enough water to flood low-lying coastal communities.
Florida residents prepared, standing in lines for hours in Tampa to collect sandbags and clear store shelves of bottled water.
The nervous wait has led to long gas lines, crowded grocery stores and empty shelves, reports CBS News’ Omar Villafranco in Clearwater, Florida.
“I tried to collect water, but there is no more water. Not too much at this point,” South Florida woman told CBS station WFOR-TV.
Her impending arrival also prompted NASA tohis third Artemis launch, moved to Sunday.
“Many people in the Florida peninsula and Florida Panhandle are at risk and need to be prepared to take action quickly,” said Rick Nabb, hurricane specialist with The Weather Channel, “and the slow motion we expect from Ian means we may have there will be wind, storm surge and flood caused by rain.’
A hurricane watch was issued for Florida’s west-central coast, including the Tampa Bay area, where Hillsborough County suspended classes until Thursday. With tropical storm force winds extending 115 miles from its center, watches were issued Monday from the Florida Keys to Lake Okeechobee.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm, which will bring heavy rain, strong winds and rising seas to large parts of the state.
“We will continue to monitor the progress of this storm. But it’s really important to emphasize the degree of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday, warning that “even if you’re not necessarily right about the path of the storm, there will be pretty broad impacts across the state.”
Flash and urban flooding is possible in the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula through midweek, then heavy rainfall is possible in northern Florida, the Florida Panhandle, and the southeastern United States later this week.
The Hurricane Center advised Florida residents to have hurricane plans and stay tuned for updates on the storm’s development.
President Biden also declared a state of emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a planned trip to Florida on Tuesday because of the storm.
In Cuba, authorities suspended classes in Pinar del Río province and planned evacuations on Monday as Ian gathered strength on its approach to Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Río and Artemisa.
“Cuba is expected to experience hurricane-force winds, as well as life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” Daniel Brown, a senior specialist at the National Hurricane Center, told The Associated Press.
The hurricane center said Ian should reach far western Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday, hitting near the country’s most famous tobacco fields. Cuban state media Granma reported that authorities will begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas early Monday in Pinar del Río. Classes there are suspended.
Cayman Islands Prime Minister Wayne Panton said in a video released Sunday that members of the government and opposition are working together to “ensure as much as possible the safety of our people – materials, plywood, in some cases sandbags are being distributed so that they can safely weather this storm … We must prepare for the worst and fully pray and hope for the best.”