Tropical storm Ian expected to ‘rapidly intensify,’ could hit Florida’s west coast ‘at or near major hurricane strength’

Tropical storm Ian could hit Florida’s west coast “at or near major hurricane strength” next week, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory issued Saturday.

Ian, the ninth tropical storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, is expected to “rapidly strengthen later his weekend” and is forecast to move near or over western Cuba and then approach the west coast of the Florida peninsula early next week, “where there is increasing confidence in multiple lif-threatening hazards,” according to the NHC.

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That includes storm surges, hurricane-force winds, as well as flooding.

The storm, which formed across the central Caribbean Sea, was moving toward the west at around 15 miles per hour, as of 11 a.m. Saturday.

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Officials with the National Weather Service Miami-South Florida said that, while it’s still unclear what Ian’s path will be, people in the area should be on high alert.

“It is too soon to determine the exact tract and magnitude of the impacts of Ian,’ the NWS Miami said in a tweet. “However, it is time those in Florida ensure their hurricane plan is in place and continue to monitor the forecast.”

A hurricane watch, which means that hurricane conditions are possible, is currently in effect for the Cayman Islands. Jamaica is under a tropical storm watch — which means that “tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.”

“The NHC track forecast has been raised from the previous one, showing Ian becoming a hurricane by late Sunday and approaching western Cuba at or near major hurricane strength by Monday night,” the NHC said in its 11 a.m. update.

“Limited land interaction is expected as the cyclone quickly passes over western Cuba, and Ian is forecast to be a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and Wednesday as it approaches the west coast of Florida,” the update added.

If Ian strengthens to a Category 3 or higher before reaching the U.S. it would be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the area since October 2018, when Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle region as a Category 5 Hurricane, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 160 miles per hour.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean began June 1 and will continue through Nov. 30, with peak hurricane possibilities remaining through September.

nydailynews

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