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Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian.
Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Hurricane Ian hits Cuba, to intensify before reaching Florida

It is expected to become a category 4 hurricane before it reaches FL on Wednesday.

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As Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico last week, Hurricane Ian is now making its way towards Florida as it made landfall in Cuba on Tuesday, Sept. 27. It is expected to intensify into a category 4 hurricane before it reaches Florida on Wednesday. 

“Right now we’re focusing on west central Florida area as the main area for impact,” Hurricane specialist Andy Latto told the Associated Press on Tuesday. 

WESH 2's Eric Burris offered more details on Monday as the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory at 11 p.m. 

"Hurricane Ian has gotten stronger, and is still expected to approach the Florida west coast as a major hurricane,” said Burris. “Based on the forecast thinking, Wednesday and Thursday look to be the worst of the weather for us in Central Florida and so depend on minor shifting,” 

“This approach and slowing forward motion mean that the storm system could essentially ride up the coast, sit over the coast, or stumble inland, with each scenario playing out a little different in terms over overall impacts. For me, flooding and tornadoes are my biggest concern,” he continued. 

Hurricane Ian hit Cuba early Tuesday morning at 4:30 am, EDT as it struck the island’s western side in the Pinar del Rio province. Cuban officials set up over 55 shelters and evacuated over 50,000 residents. Emergency personnel and assistance was rushed in to help and the island also took prior steps to protect its tobacco crops. 

“This is a really really big hurricane,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said as he warned Florida. 

“We were here 48 hours ago and most of the solutions had it going up the coast — the west coast of Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. 

“Now most of them have it ramming into the state of Florida and cutting across and so just be prepared for that and understand that that’s something that could be happening,” he continued. 

DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday and since, many residents have lined up to fuel up their vehicles, buy food and water, and are preparing for a shelter in place plan. 

President Joe Biden accepted the state of emergency and is now authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to plan out disaster relief and provide assistance for people and their property. 

According to NHC, Ian had winds of over 125 mph and 14 feet of a storm surge along the Cuban coast where it struck. 

“People on the barrier islands who decide not to go, they do so at their own peril – The best thing they can do is leave,” County Manager Roger Desjarlais, of  Lee County, said Tuesday.

NHC forecasters also said on Tuesday that Ian would hover over the Gulf of Mexico before making an expected landfall on Wednesday. 

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Lee County as well as for low-lying areas that include Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Bonita Beach, home to 250,000 people, after forecasters expanded the hurricane warning area early Tuesday. 

"Ian is expected to spend only spend a few hours over western Cuba, and little overall change in strength is likely during that time. The center should emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later this morning, where warm water and generally low vertical wind shear conditions are expected to allow for additional intensification, and the NHC forecast calls for Ian to reach category 4 strength. By 24 to 36 hours, increasing southwesterly vertical wind shear and drier mid-level air are likely to result in some gradual weakening. However, Ian is still expected to be a major hurricane when it reaches the Florida west coast," the NHC said.

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