Ian strengthens into a hurricane as Florida begins evacuations and Cuba braces for possible floods

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Ian strengthened into a hurricane Monday as Florida began ordering evacuations and preparing for potential flooding this week.

Tornadoes are also possible late Monday night and through Tuesday over the Florida Keys and Florida’s southern and central peninsula, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A mandatory evacuation was issued Monday for some residents of Hillsborough County on the westernmost part of the Florida peninsula. Emergency shelters were opened in the county, which is near Tampa.

County Administrator Bonnie Wise told reporters that the evacuation orders and recommendations will go into effect Monday at 2 p.m.

“We have not made this decision easy, but the storm poses a serious threat and we must do everything we can to protect our residents,” Wise said at a news conference.

Ian is currently in the western Caribbean Sea It is expected to strengthen rapidly the next day and become a major hurricane as it approaches western Cuba, where it is expected to “cause significant wind and storm surge effects.”

The storm, which is about 240 miles southeast of Cuba’s western tip, has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, with higher gusts, the Hurricane Center said.

A hurricane watch has been issued along Florida’s west coast from northern Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay, while a tropical storm warning is in place for the lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge to Key West and Dry Tortugas Island.

The center of Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands Monday, and near or over western Cuba Monday evening and early Tuesday, the hurricane center said.

“Ian will then rise over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and pass west of the Florida Keys late Tuesday and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday,” it said.

The hurricane is expected to bring 8 to 15 inches of rain to central West Florida, 3 to 8 inches to the rest of peninsular Florida and 4 to 6 inches to the Keys.

“Heavy rains are expected to hit North Florida, eastern parts of the Florida Panhandle and parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions Friday and Saturday,” the NHC said. This rain could cause flash flooding and urban flooding in central Florida mid-to-late week, as well as the Florida Keys and the peninsula through mid-week.

Flooding and rises in streams and rivers over northern Florida and parts of the southeastern US are also possible mid-to-late week.

“Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force and heavy rainfall along Florida’s west coast and the Florida Panhandle by mid-week, and Florida residents should ensure they have their hurricane plan ready,” it said. .

In photos taken Sunday, Tampa residents could see sandbags filling to prevent flooding prior to the storm.

People are filling their allotted 10 free sandbags to prepare for the storm’s arrival in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday.Luis Santana / Tampa Bay Times via Zuma Press

In Kissimmee, about an hour northeast of Tampa, a long line of customers waited outside a store in a race to stock up on supplies before Ian arrived. A number of people could be seen carrying several crates of water bottles out of the store.

Before reaching Florida, the hurricane is predicted to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands before moving on to western Cuba.

“Life-threatening” storm surge and hurricane strength is expected to hit parts of western Cuba late Monday, with Ian expected to be at or near hurricane strength by the time it approaches the region.

Western Cuba can get anywhere from 6 to 16 inches of rain, the Cayman Islands can get 3 to 8 inches, and Jamaica another 1 to 3 inches, according to forecasters. This rainfall can cause flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations above western Cuba.

Water levels along the coast of western Cuba can rise as much as 9 to 14 feet above normal tides Monday night and early Tuesday.

There is a hurricane warning for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, while a tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque and Matanzas.

Authorities in Cuba have suspended school classes in Pinar del Rio province and said they would begin evacuations Monday in preparation for the storm.

Cuban state media outlet Granma reported that authorities planned to begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas in the far western province early Monday.

“Efforts to protect life and property must be completed urgently,” the Hurricane Center warned.

There are tropical storm watches for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

The Prime Minister of the Cayman Islands, Wayne Panton, urged residents to prepare for the storm and also check with neighbors.

He said there was some uncertainty, but that “history has taught us that we should prepare as best we can, and that we should prepare for the worst and absolutely pray and hope for the best.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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