Tropical Storm Ian is expected to “rapidly intensify” later today, developing into a major hurricane over the next 48 hours and eventually hitting Florida — but many questions remain, including the strength and intensity of the storm when it makes landfall.
Tropical Storm Ian still has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 8 a.m. update on Sunday. The storm was located about 320 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and 590 miles southeast of the western top of Cuba, and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph. A hurricane warning is in effect for Grand Cayman and a hurricane watch is in effect for parts of Cuba.
“The NHC intensity forecast calls for rapid intensification to begin later today, and Ian is forecast to become a major hurricane as it approaches western Cuba in approximately 48 hours,” the NHC said in an update earlier Sunday. By Tuesday, the storm is expected Will become a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds and a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds Wednesday.
Computer prediction models agree that Ian will hit Florida, but not where. “There are still significant differences regarding the exact track of the storm, especially after 72 hours,” the NHC warned.
Two models, UKMET and ECMWF, show the storm will make landfall in west central Florida. Two other models, GFS and HWRF, show the storm moving further west and bringing Ian into the central or western Florida panhandle. For Ian’s day 4 and day 5 predictions, there is a 220-250 mile difference between the model orbits, the NHC said.
The Hurricane Center’s current forecast trajectory for the storm essentially separates the differences between the different model sets from the NHC’s best guess.
“It cannot be overemphasized that significant uncertainty remains in Ian’s long-term forecast,” the NHC warned.
“Regardless of Ian’s exact trajectory and intensity, with the Florida West Coast and Florida Panhandle at risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricanes and heavy rainfall by the middle of this week, Florida residents should ensure they have a hurricane plan and listen to local officials. any recommendations and keep an eye on forecast updates,” the Hurricane Center said.
It’s unclear where Ian was hit the hardest, said John Canjalosi, a senior hurricane expert at the Miami-based Hurricane Center. He said Floridians should start preparing, including gathering supplies for a possible power outage.
“At this point, the really correct message for people living in Florida is that you have to pay attention to forecasts, be prepared, be prepared for the potential impact of this tropical system,” he said.
In central Florida, residents spent part of the weekend preparing for Ian’s arrival.
A Target store near Millenia had few gallons of bottled water left on Saturday, as signs on the shelves limited each customer to four cases or bottles.
“This is the third store I’ve visited today,” said Maritza Osorio, who left Target for the fourth. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to try again tomorrow.”
There was less foot traffic through the Home Depot in the same square, with many people filling their carts with water, while others were buying plywood for shutters, among other items.
While it’s unclear if or how hard Ian will be hit when he hits Central Florida, the likes of Gary Wilson aren’t taking any chances. Just in case, he’s got his Hurricanes gear ready a few weeks before the season and is at Home Depot for the final touches.
“If something happens, I’m ready,” Wilson said.
Florida Governor on Saturday. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for the entire Sunshine State — expanding on an order he issued Friday declaring a state of emergency in two dozen counties. DeSantis also mobilized the National Guard to assist with storm preparation and recovery.
“This storm has the potential to intensify into a major hurricane, and we encourage all Floridians to prepare,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track this potential impact of a storm.”
President Joe Biden also declared a state of emergency in the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect life and property.
The president postponed the original September. 27 Headed to Orlando due to a storm.
Sentinel employees and Associated Press’ Cristóbal Reyes contributed to this report