Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hurricane Ian leaves destruction behind in Cuba, set to strengthen into Cat 4 in Gulf, Florida



 Hurricane Ian is heading toward Florida after raking western Cuba on Tuesday – and officials in the Sunshine State are pleading with people to flee the peninsula’s west coast ahead of what could be life-threatening storm surge in the Fort Myers and Tampa areas and flooding rains.

Ian, a Category 3 storm packing maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, was over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico around 2 p.m. ET, having made landfall in Cuba early Tuesday as a Category 3, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Cuba’s tobacco-rich Pinar del Rio province lost power because of the storm, according to Cuban state television. Floodwater covered fields and fallen trees lay in front of buildings in San Juan y Martinez, a town in the province, images from state media outlet Cubadebate show.

Hurricane Ian continued to rapidly intensify through early Tuesday morning, strengthening into a major Category 3 hurricane as it approached Cuba. Next in the path of the powerful hurricane will be the Florida Peninsula with a strike along the central Florida west coast Wednesday evening.

Over the course of 24 hours, 5 a.m. Monday through 5 a.m. Tuesday, Ian's maximum sustained winds jumped from 75 mph to 125 mph, meeting the criteria for rapid intensification.

Hurricane watches were upgraded to warnings for a stretch of Florida's western coast Monday evening, including Tampa and Fort Myers, and a hurricane warning was issued for Dry Tortugas, an island in Monroe County, Florida, as Ian continued to gain strength as the fourth hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. AccuWeather forecasters warn that the storm will continue to gain intensity during the next couple of days and is forecast to become a Category 4 behemoth in the Gulf of Mexico as early as Tuesday evening.

A warning also is in effect for far northeastern Florida’s coast, from near the Georgia state line down to Marineland, as well as for St. John’s River further inland.

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