South Florida remains out of the current tracks for a direct hit from Tropical Storm Ian, but all Floridians should prepare for a major storm,, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday.
Tropical Storm Ian is expected to become a hurricane Sunday, and then grow into the season’s second major hurricane by midweek.
A 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center said Ian is forecast to “begin rapidly strengthening” Sunday night, with significant wind and storm surge expected in western Cuba. The models show a possible direct hit to the Tampa area or the Florida Panhandle
“Don’t get too wedded to those cones,” DeSantis said in a news conference Sunday at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “Even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there’s going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state.”
He said there could be heavy flooding on Florida’s east coast. And there’s no guarantee that the storm’s path will continue to move west as it has for the past two days.
“There’s uncertainty. The models are not in agreement,” he said. “Just don’t think if you’re not in that eye, you don’t have to make preparations. The last thing we want to have it bear east quickly and then have folks who are not prepared. It’s better to be prepared and not have to use those preparations than the opposite.”
This includes having an adequate supply of food, water, batteries, medicine and fuel, he said.
But most residents won’t need to evacuate, emergency officials said. People should first look on floridadisaster.org/know to see if they are in an evacuation zone. If not, they should assess whether their home can withstand tropical storm- or hurricane-strength winds.
“In Hurricane Irma, we over evacuated residents by nearly two million people,” said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
DeSantis said to expect heavy rains, strong winds, flash flooding, storm surges and even isolated tornadoes. He has issued a state of emergency for all 67 counties “given the uncertainty of the storm.” Previously, the state of emergency had been issued only for 24 counties, including Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach.
President Biden has also approved a federal emergency declaration for Florida, allowing it to access the resources of FEMA.
The state has waved restrictions for commercial trucks and authorized emergency refills of prescriptions or 30 days. DeSantis said he’s also activated 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard to assist with the emergency.
The center of Ian is expected to pass well southwest of Jamaica Sunday evening, and pass near or west of the Cayman Islands early Monday, according to a 2 p.m. forecast track. Ian will then move near or over western Cuba Monday night and early Tuesday and emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
If Ian does make landfall on Cuba, it is expected to do so as a major hurricane (sustained winds of at least 111 mph).
It will then and emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
South Florida is out of the cone of uncertainty forecasts where the center of a hurricane will be two-thirds of the time, said Shawn Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center. But subtle shifts in the track can make a huge difference, and the warm waters of the Gulf and possible land interaction with Cuba could create those shifts.
“This weekend, have all preparations in place for a potential worst-case scenario,” said Bhatti.
The “reasonable” worst-case scenario right now still includes all the impacts associated with a major hurricane. But if the storm keeps shifting west, South Florida could see only high waves and gusty winds.
As the weekend progresses, the hurricane’s path will become increasingly clear. By Sunday night into Monday morning, forecasters say they’ll have a much better idea of what’s to come and whether South Florida might be spared the brunt of the storm.
What used to be tropical Storm Hermine on Sunday was continuing to bring rain to the Canary Islands and is poised to become a remnant low, forecasters said.
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DeSantis urges all Floridians to prepare