State of emergency in Florida before the arrival of a possible hurricane 0:45
(WABNEWS) — The tropical storm ianthe ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season of 2022, it will reach Category 4 hurricane strength before reaching Florida next week. If it does, it will be the first major hurricane to hit the state since 2018.
Ian was located about 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of Kingston, Jamaica, at 6 pm Saturday and is moving west at 25 km/h, according to the National Hurricane Center. “Significant strengthening is forecast over the next several days,” the center reported.RELATED
The forecast shows Ian “as a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf as it approaches the west coast of Florida” after briefly passing over Cuba at or near major hurricane strength, the center said Friday. All of Florida and nearly the entire western coast of the state could be at risk, according to the hurricane center’s most recent cone of uncertainty.
After strengthening overnight, Ian, formerly known as Tropical Depression Nine, has maximum sustained winds of 75 km/h (45 mph) and is forecast to reach hurricane status in the next two days as it approaches the Cayman Islands on Monday morning.
Ian is then expected to rapidly intensify into a Category 3 hurricane before reaching the western tip of Cuba on Tuesday morning. Conditions are extremely favorable for strengthening and the National Hurricane Center forecast now upgrades Ian to a Category 4 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico.
“Since Ian is not expected to remain long over Cuba, little weakening is expected from that land interaction,” the hurricane center explained.
Forecast models for Saturday afternoon vary depending on where Ian is likely to make landfall on the Florida coast. The European model shows the landfall near Tampa on Thursday morning, while the US model shows the landfall near Pensacola on Friday morning. There also remains a considerable amount of uncertainty with the track in the middle of next week.
The official hurricane center instead splits the difference between the two models and shows landfall north of Tampa on Thursday morning.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a 24-county emergency order to include the entire state on Saturday, citing “previous conditions, anticipated to constitute a major disaster.”
“The Florida Division of Emergency Management, working with the National Hurricane Center to evaluate weather forecasts, has determined that there is a continuing risk of destructive storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, high winds, dangerous seas and isolated activity. of tornadoes for the Florida Panhandle and portions of Florida Big Bend, North Florida, and Northeast Florida,” the order reads.
Under the statewide emergency order, members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and awaiting orders.
Watch Fiona wreak havoc on Canada’s east coast 1:12 Ian could be Florida’s first major hurricane in four years
If it strengthens to a Category 3 or higher before reaching Florida, it would be the first major hurricane to make landfall there since Hurricane Michael in 2018, which was a Category 5 monster storm when it collided with the Florida panhandle. Michael also experienced a rapid intensification before making landfall, a phenomenon that has become more likely as ocean temperatures warm warm due to the climate crisis.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands, including Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The Jamaican government has also issued a tropical storm watch.
A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate Ian and provide additional data later on Saturday, according to the center.
The governor urged those in the potential path of the storm to prepare.
“This storm has the potential to become a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to prepare,” DeSantis said in a news release. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts from this storm.”
Meteorologists urge residents to prepare
The start of what is forecast to be an above-average hurricane season has been slow. So far, only one storm has made landfall in a US territory, and no hurricane has even threatened adjoining states.
But now, a week after the peak of hurricane season, the tropics seem to have woken up and meteorologists are worried that people have let their guard down.
“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season rapidly increased in intensity,” tweeted Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University.
“People tend to let their guard down and think ‘oh yeah, we’re out of the woods,'” María Torres, a spokeswoman for the hurricane center, told WABNEWS. “But really, the season is going on. We’re still in September; we’ve still got October. We have to keep a very close eye on anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean.”
The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.
Whatever happens, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida and other states along the Gulf Coast, keep an eye out for updated forecasts this weekend, at least through early next week.