Hurricane Ian set to strike Cuba, then Florida

The storm became a Category 1 hurricane early Monday morning and is expected to continue strengthening until it reaches the US coast.

HAVANA, Cuba — Authorities in Cuba suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and said they would begin evacuations on Monday as Hurricane Ian was expected to reach the western portion of the island on its way to Florida.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. The US National Hurricane Center said Ian should reach far western Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday, making landfall near the country’s most famous tobacco fields. It could turn into a major hurricane on Tuesday.

Cuba’s state-run media outlet Granma said authorities would begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas in the far western Pinar del Rio province early Monday. Classes were suspended there.

As of 2 a.m. EDT Monday, Ian was moving northwest at 20 km/h, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southwest of Grand Cayman, according to the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 km/h).

Meanwhile, Florida residents kept a wary eye on Ian as it rumbled ominously through the Caribbean on a path toward the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency across Florida, urging residents to prepare for the storm, which will sweep large parts of the state with torrential rain, high winds and rising seas.

Forecasters are still unsure exactly where Ian might land, with current models projecting it toward Florida’s West Coast or Panhandle regions, he said.

“We will continue to monitor the trail of this storm. But it’s really important to emphasize the level of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a Sunday news conference, warning, “Even if you’re not necessarily directly in the eye of the storm, it’s going to have a nice broad impact across the country.” .”

Flash flooding and urban flooding are possible in the Florida Keys and Florida Peninsula through mid-week, and heavy rains were possible later this week in northern Florida, the Florida Panhandle and the southeastern United States.

The agency placed a tropical storm watch over the lower Florida Keys Sunday night, advising Floridians to prepare hurricane plans and monitor updates on the storm’s evolving path.

President Joe 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 life and property. The President postponed a scheduled trip to Florida on September 27 because of the storm.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist for the Miami-based center, said in an interview Sunday that it’s not exactly clear where in Florida Ian would be hit hardest. Residents should begin preparations, including getting supplies for possible power outages, he said.

“It’s hard to say, stay tuned, but that’s the right message now,” Cangialosi said. “But for those in Florida, there’s still time to prepare. I’m not telling you to put up your shutters or do anything, but there’s still time to get your supplies.”

Local media in Florida has reported a consumer rush for water, generators and other supplies in some areas, where residents have relocated to stock up on supplies ahead of the storm.

Associated Press writer Julie Walker contributed to this report from New York. Hurricane Ian set to strike Cuba, then Florida

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