Tropical Storm Ian continued to intensify as it approached Cuba late Sunday while a Tropical Storm watch went into effect for the down switches.
But most of Florida continued to prepare for Ian’s mysterious path.
The South Florida Tertiary is still off the current paths of a direct hit from the storm, which is expected to be a major hurricane when it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and all Florida residents should prepare for a major storm, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday.
Tropical Storm Watch from Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, including Dry Tortugas, is included in the 5 p.m. update by the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
In the 8 p.m. update, the storm had grown to a maximum sustained wind strength of 60 mph, still shy of 74 mph to classify as a hurricane.
On the forecast track, the center of Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands on Monday, near or over western Cuba on Monday night and dawn Tuesday. Ian will then exit over the southeast Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
According to the National Weather Service/Miami, the storm is expected to rapidly intensify to hurricane strength on Monday as it moves through the bay and through midweek as it approaches Florida.
The Weather Service continues to stress the uncertainty in the storm’s path once it enters the bay, and said the storm’s size is expected to expand as well. Models show a potential direct hit to the Tampa area all the way through the Florida Panhandle.
Small changes to the track will make a big difference in impact across Florida. In southern Florida, widespread precipitation can lead to significant flooding, accompanied by winds that reach tropical storm levels.
“Don’t get stuck in these cones,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “Even if you weren’t necessarily right in the eye of the storm’s path, there would be very broad effects across the state.”
He said there could be heavy flooding on Florida’s east coast. And there is no guarantee that the storm’s path will continue to move westward as it has in the past two days.
There is uncertainty. The models are not in agreement. “Just don’t think if you weren’t in that eye, you wouldn’t have to make preparations. The last thing we want is to be fast in the East and then have people unprepared. You better be prepared and not have to use those preparations on the contrary.”
This includes getting adequate supplies of food, water, batteries, medicine and fuel, he said.
Emergency officials said most residents would not need to evacuate. People should look first floriddisaster.org/know To see if they are in an evacuation zone. If not, they should assess whether they can withstand tropical storm winds or hurricane winds.
“In Hurricane Irma, we evacuated nearly two million people,” said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
DeSantis said he expects heavy rain, strong winds, flash floods, storms, and even scattered tornadoes. He issued a state of emergency to all 67 counties “due to the uncertainty of the storm.” Previously, only 24 counties were issued a state of emergency, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
President Biden also approved a federal emergency declaration for Florida, allowing it to access FEMA resources.
The state has lifted restrictions on commercial vans and authorized emergency or 30-day refills of prescriptions. DeSantis said he has also activated 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard to assist in the emergency.
The center of Ian is expected to pass southwest of Jamaica on Sunday evening, and pass near or west of the Cayman Islands early Monday, according to the 8 p.m. forecast track. Ian will then move near or over western Cuba on Monday night and dawn Tuesday and exit over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
If Ian makes landfall in Cuba, it is expected to occur as a major hurricane (sustainable winds of at least 111 mph).
Then it will appear over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
The 8 p.m. hurricane warning is in effect for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. Hurricane warnings, which refer to hurricane conditions, are usually issued 36 hours before the first expected appearance of tropical storm winds.
Sean Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center, said southern Florida is out of the uncertainty forecast as the hurricane’s center will be two-thirds of the time. But slight shifts in the path can make a big difference, and the warmer waters of the Gulf and potential land interaction with Cuba could lead to those shifts.
“This weekend, they have made all the preparations for a possible worst-case scenario,” Bhatti said.
On Sunday, the course of expectations seemed to begin to turn again to the east.
The “reasonable” worst-case scenario at the moment still includes all the impacts associated with a major hurricane. But if the storm continues to shift west, South Florida will only see high waves and high winds.
The path of the hurricane will become increasingly clear. By Sunday night through Monday morning, meteorologists say they will have a better idea of what will happen and whether southern Florida may survive the brunt of the storm.
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Meanwhile, storm formerly known as Hermine continued to bring rain on the Canary Islands on Sunday, then became a low remnant and dissipated.
What would have been Fiona had weakened to a post-tropical hurricane by early Sunday and dissipated later in the day.
Forecasters are also watching for a wide area of low pressure in the Atlantic that has a 30% chance of developing in the next five days, although Ian is the biggest concern.
Fiona was the first major hurricane of the 2022 season, which means Category 3 and up.
Tropical Storm Gaston continues to weaken and is expected to turn into a post-tropical cyclone late Sunday.
Hurricane season ends on November 30th. And the next storm will be after Ian Julia.
Writer Shira Molten contributed to this report.
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