The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has declared a state of emergency.
On Monday, Hurricane Ian formed into a category two hurricane and took aim at Cuba and Florida. This morning, it made landfall in western Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Satellite and radar data indicate that the center of Ian has made landfall just southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio Province of Cuba at 4:30 a.m.,” the center said. The next location in its path is Florida. It is expected to make landfall late Wednesday afternoon between Tampa and Fort Myers, although the track, timing, and intensity could still change.
As of right now, Hurricane Ian is expected to directly hit Tampa Bay, which would mark the city’s first direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.
This hurricane is slow-moving and is expected to drop more than 15 inches of rain from Tampa to Orlando. This means that major flooding is possible in Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg.
As this hurricane moves north over Florida, tropical storm force winds will reach coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Tropical storm watches have been issued for Savannah and Charleston.
The storm surge forecast for Tampa Bay has dropped from 10 feet to 8 feet. But now, the predicted storm surge from Fort Myers has increased and could be as high as 12 feet.
The Orlando International Airport said operations would stop at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is closing at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and the Tampa International Airport is suspending flights at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Due to the threats of storm surges and catastrophic flooding, DeSantis has made it clear that there is still time to prepare or evacuate. About 2.5 million Floridians are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders.
Along with all of these threats, tornado watches have been issued for Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Naples, and Key West as the hurricane approaches. These watches are in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday.