Tracking Ian: Florida emergency declared as tropical storm strengthens

TALLAHASSEE, Florida– Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian was gaining strength over the Caribbean Sea and was expected to soon become a major hurricane on its way to the state.

DeSantis initially issued the emergency order for two dozen counties on Friday. But he expanded the warning to statewide, urging residents to prepare for a storm that could hit large parts of Florida.

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

President Joe Biden also declared a state of emergency for the state and authorized 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 a scheduled trip to Florida on September 27 because of the storm.

The National Hurricane Center said Ian is expected to strengthen before moving across western Cuba and toward Florida’s west coast and the Florida Panhandle in the middle of next week. The agency said Floridians should have hurricane plans and advised residents to monitor updates on the storm’s evolving path.

The center issued an updated advisory as of 5 a.m. Sunday, noting that the tropical storm was expected to “increase rapidly in strength later today” with “increasing risk of significant wind and storm surge impacts for western Cuba.”

Ian was expected to become a hurricane on Sunday and a major hurricane as early as late Monday. The storm had sustained peak winds of 85 km/h on Sunday morning as it swirled about 555 kilometers southeast of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

A hurricane warning remained in effect for the island and hurricane watches were issued for western Cuba.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist for the Miami-based center, said it’s not yet clear exactly where in Florida Ian will be hit hardest. He said residents in the state should prepare for the storm, including stocking up on supplies for potential power outages.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s going to be an issue in Southeast Florida, or in Central Florida, or just the entire state,” he said. “So at this point, really, the right message for those who live in Florida is that you need to watch forecasts and prepare for potential impacts from this tropical system.”

In Pinellas Park, near Tampa, people were lining up outside a Home Depot when it opened at 6 a.m., the Tampa Bay Times reported. Manager Wendy Macrini said the store had sold 600 cases of water by early afternoon and the generators had gone out.

People also bought plywood to cover their windows: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” Matt Beaver of Pinellas Park told the Times.

The governor’s statement unleashes emergency response assets and activates members of the Florida National Guard, his office said. His order emphasizes that storm surges, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions exist throughout the state.

Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona crashed ashore early Saturday in Nova Scotia, in the Atlantic Canada region. The storm washed homes into the sea, ripped off roofs from others and knocked out power in the vast majority of Canada’s two provinces, affecting more than 500,000 customers at the storm’s peak.

Fiona had turned from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but it still had gale-force winds, bringing drenching rain and huge waves. There was no confirmation of dead or injured.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Tracking Ian: Florida emergency declared as tropical storm strengthens

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