UPDATE MONDAY 5 A.M. —
Hurricane Ian has formed south of Cuba, where it is expected to have singinficant impacts today and tomorrow as a major hurricane.
The storm’s exact track when it makes landfall in Florida is still unknown at this time, though forecasters believe it may hit along the northwestern Florida penninsula or in the Big Bend region.
Panhandle residents are still advised to closely monitor forecasts and make storm preparations, and large portions of the panhandle remain within the storm’s cone model, indicating it is still possible these areas will be directly hit.
The storm is still expected to decrease in magnitutde before making landfall in Florida, though exactly how much remains unknown at this time.
The National Hurricane Center said that “regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida panhandle by the middle of this week.”
UPDATE SUNDAY 5 P.M. —
Tropical Storm Ian, which has not yet formed into a hurricane, is expected to impact Western Cuba early next week, with hurricane-force winds arriving as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
Uncertainty remains higher than normal about the storm’s exact path and intensity, and the exact location of the storm’s Florida landfall is still undetermined.
ORIGINAL REPORT —
Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane Sunday as it continues to make a projected path toward Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecast models have shifted westward over the past 24 hours, now indicating there is a significant chance the storm will make landfall somewhere on the Florida panhandle or in the Big Bend region.
These models currently indicate the storm will make landfall on Thursday or early Friday. Local officials urge panhandle residents to make hurricane preparations and to establish an evacuation plan in case this becomes necessary.
The NHC’s 11 a.m. advisory said that Ian was 300 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and 570 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba. The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and was moving west-northwest at 14 mph.
According to the NHC, the center of Ian was expected to pass Jamaica Sunday. It would then move near or past the Cayman Islands early Monday morning before it gets near Cuba Monday night or Tuesday morning.
From there, it is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico and travel north and maybe slightly east, before making likely impact in Florida.
It is expected to evolve into a major hurricane while in the Gulf of Mexico, with current estimates hovering around a category 4 storm.
Forecasters currently predict that the storm will decrease in magnitude before it reaches Florida to a category 1 or 2, though they emphasize that this prediction is subject to change and encourage Florida residents to closely monitor foresacts and listen to local emergency authorities.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency delcaration to cover all 67 of the state’s counties on Saturday, allowing for the mobilization of resources to prepare for the storm.
A hurricane kit checklist can be viewed below.
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This report will be updated as information becomes available.