Florida braces as Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen to hurricane

Tropical Storm Ian

Tropical Storm Ian is expected to become a hurricane Sunday night and reach major hurricane strength early next week, forecasters said.

The storm, currently in the Caribbean Sea with maximum sustained winds near 50 mph and higher gusts, is expected to become a major hurricane — meaning a Category 3 — by Monday or Tuesday, forecasters said.
The storm is 540 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba and could approach the Florida Keys and the southern and central area of the Florida peninsula beginning Monday through to Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The potential hurricane is forecast to bring 2 to 6 inches of rain to the Keys and peninsula, and even bring heavy rainfall to northern and western Florida, as well as to other states in the southeastern U.S. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
These rains may produce flash and urban flooding across the Keys and the peninsula through midweek.

Flooding and rising in streams and rivers in northern Florida and parts of the southeast U.S. later in the week “cannot be ruled out,” according to forecasters.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it expects “rapid strengthening” from Ian over the next 48 hours, with maximum sustained winds of 75mph (121kmph).

An NHC official said Cuba could experience “extreme hurricane force winds, life threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall” later on Monday.

Classes have been cancelled in parts of the island, and evacuations have been planned in a handful of western provinces, including near the country’s tobacco region.

Authorities in the Cayman Islands, a British territory, are working to provide plywood, sandbags and other supplies to local residents,

“We must prepare for the worst and absolutely pray and hope for the best,” Premier Wayne Panton said in a video on Sunday.

Along Florida’s Tampa Bay coast, grocery store shelves were quickly cleared of basic necessities and there were long queues at gas stations.

“It’s never too early to prepare,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tweeted on Sunday.
Before the storm gets close to Florida, it is predicted to become a hurricane and pass near or west of the Cayman Islands, south of Cuba, early Monday, the hurricane center said. It will then move near or over western Cuba, where significant wind and storm surge impacts are expected, Monday night and early Tuesday before moving over to the southeastern Gulf of Mexico….Tropical Storm Ian
The Caribbean is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Fiona, which tore through the region last week.

Moving northward to parts of the Atlantic Canada coastline and eastern Quebec, Fiona claimed two lives, washed homes into the sea and downed power lines over the weekend.

It caused widespread devastation. Ten people died in the U.S. directly from the storms, and there were 82 “indirect” deaths, most of which were in Florida, according to a National Hurricane Center report.. Tropical Storm Ian

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