Hurricane Ian: Tropical Storm strengthens in the Caribbean, tracks toward Florida

The ninth tropical storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season has formed over the central Caribbean Sea and is expected to transform into a hurricane before hitting Florida. If it does, it will be the first major hurricane to hit the state since 2018.

Tropical Storm Ian was about 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, as of 11 a.m. Saturday, moving west at about 15 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The forecast shows Ian “as a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf as it nears the west coast of Florida” after briefly sweeping over Cuba, the center said Friday. Much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including the eastern Panhandle, may be at risk.

Forecast models vary Saturday morning as to where Ian could land on the Florida coast. The European model shows the landing near Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon, while the American model shows the landing near the state’s Big Bend region early Friday morning.

The official hurricane center track breaks down the difference between the models and shows the landfall near Tampa Wednesday night.

Tropical storm winds could begin hitting southwest Florida early Tuesday, with a possible landfall on Wednesday.

After strengthening overnight, the storm — formerly known as Tropical Depression Nine — has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and is expected to reach hurricane status within the next two days as it makes its way into the Cayman Islands by early Monday approaches . Further reinforcement is expected as the system approaches and transits western Cuba by Monday evening.

If it resurfaces in the warm waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the storm could reach major hurricane status with winds of 110 mph or more.

“Ian will likely be in the vicinity of a major hurricane as it approaches western Cuba,” the hurricane center said. “Since Ian is not expected to stay over Cuba for long, little weakening is expected as a result of this land interaction.”

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 when it collided with the Panhandle of Florida collided. Michael also underwent rapid intensification before hitting land, a phenomenon that has become more likely as sea temperatures rise due to the climate crisis.

A hurricane watch has been issued by the Cayman Islands government for the Cayman Islands, including Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The Jamaican government has issued a tropical storm warning.

A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to examine Ian and provide additional data later on Saturday, according to the center.

As forecasts tighten, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday requested emergency federal assistance in anticipation of the threat and also declared a state of emergency for 24 counties. Per the state-level emergency order, members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and on standby awaiting orders.

The governor urged those who may be in the path of the storm to prepare.

“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to take their preparedness,” DeSantis said in a press release. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track any potential impact from this storm.”

Meteorologists urge residents to prepare

It’s been a slow start to what was forecast to be an above-average hurricane season. Only one storm has made landfall on a US territory, and no hurricane has made landfall or threatened adjacent states.

Now, a week into the peak of hurricane season, the tropics appear to have woken up and forecasters are worried people have lost their vigilance.

“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has accelerated rapidly,” tweeted Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University.

“People tend to lower their guard and think, oh yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Maria Torres, spokeswoman for the hurricane center, told CNN. “But in reality the season goes on. We are still in September, we still have October ahead of us. Anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean we have to monitor very closely.”

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30th.

No matter what, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida and other states along the Gulf Coast, keep an eye out for updated forecasts from this weekend through early next week.

The CNN Wire

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https://6abc.com/hurricane-ian-tropical-depression-9-hurricanes-caribbean/12260191/ Hurricane Ian: Tropical Storm strengthens in the Caribbean, tracks toward Florida

Alley Einstein

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