Hurricane Ian is rapidly strengthening near Cuba and will cause hurricane conditions in western Cuba before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and making landfall in Florida. It was early Monday morning when I formed in the western Caribbean Sea, southwest of Grand Cayman, becoming the fourth hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.
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It is about to intensify into the second major storm of the season. This is the current state of our knowledge of Ian. Ian is a hurricane currently located near western Cuba and moving to the north-northwest.
The storms are heading north across southern Florida and much of Cuba, bringing rain and strong winds. Bands of torrential rain lashed Grand Cayman Monday morning, with winds reaching 53 miles per hour.
A hurricane warning has been issued for Tampa Bay and the rest of Florida’s west coast north of Englewood to the Anclote River. If a hurricane watch is in effect, then severe weather is expected Tuesday evening.
The area of western Cuba, illustrated on the following map, is also under a hurricane warning. This means that hurricane conditions are currently present or about to begin.
A storm surge warning has been issued from the Anclote River to Flamingo, indicating a risk of catastrophic flooding from ocean water moving inland from the coast until Tuesday.
Other regions of western and central Cuba, much of central Florida and the lower Florida Keys are under a tropical storm warning, meaning those areas can expect tropical storm conditions on Tuesday or Wednesday.
By Wednesday afternoon, tropical storm conditions are likely for much of the east coast of Florida and southeast Georgia, where a tropical storm watch is in effect.
Forecast track, wind intensity
The National Hurricane Center has released its latest forecast for Hurricane Ian’s path. Something has been moving eastward for the past 24 hours. f Ian continues straight down the middle of the cone of uncertainty, the resulting path is pretty much the worst-case scenario for the Tampa-St. Peet-Clearwater Area.
Therefore, a strong eyewall could pass through all three cities, directing water into Tampa Bay and other southern river systems. On Tuesday morning, Ian will move across western Cuba and head toward the Florida peninsula by midweek.
Impacts in Florida, USA
Beginning Tuesday in the Keys and Wednesday in the West Florida Hurricane Warning Area, tropical storm force winds are expected to arrive in Florida. Just be aware that the center of any hurricane or tropical storm will be hit before the outer edges.
It has grown in size and may slow as it nears the Gulf Coast, making it a threat of severe storms and rainfall despite the loss of intensity that may occur before landfall, as we describe later.
If the predicted high tide coincides with a storm surge, the area below could be flooded to its greatest extent (as depicted on a map provided by the National Hurricane Center). In its 11 o’clock call Monday night, the National Hurricane Center warned that “there is a possibility of a life-threatening storm surge along most of Florida’s west coast,” from Tampa Bay to the Everglades.
The southernmost parts of Florida could experience storm surge flooding as early as Tuesday night, while the rest of West Florida may not escape the threat until Wednesday. The danger along Florida’s west coast could peak Thursday or Friday, then gradually fade by Saturday.
Florida’s first coast, as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, are likely to receive storm surge if Ian slows down and water has time to build up. The St. Johns River in Northeast Florida could flood if winds blow from the northeast at that time.
Much of the Florida peninsula, including the interior, is now expected to be flooded. By the end of the week, Florida’s western peninsula could see up to 20 inches of rain, while most of central Florida could see more than 5 inches.
Flash flooding of streets and alleys as well as rivers is possible as a result of this rainfall.
Flooding on and near Florida’s western Gulf Coast is likely to be worsened by water entering the Gulf, which may temporarily obstruct rain-swollen rivers that normally flow into the Gulf.
Later on Friday and throughout the weekend, Ian will move inland across the southeastern United States, bringing with it heavy rain, strong winds and the possibility of localized tornadoes.
Ian’s predicted course to Florida still has room for error. If Ian sharpens its turn to the east, it could reach the west coast of the Florida peninsula as early as Wednesday evening. But if it continues to move north, it may not hit the handle until Thursday night or Friday at the earliest.
I an is projected to slow as it approaches land, which could prolong and intensify its effects. This is a serious problem. Even if Ian never makes landfall on the western peninsula, its spread may still manage to collect a significant portion of the region.
By the time it makes landfall on Tuesday, either in western Cuba or the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, it will have rapidly strengthened into a major hurricane (at least a Category 3). The Loop Circulation, a northward flow of warm water from the western Caribbean Sea into the southern Gulf of Mexico, is a known source of fuel for strong storms in the Gulf, and the storm’s path over that water could give it an extra boost.
After that, it is likely to weaken further as it encounters drier air and stronger winds. Even if Ian’s winds weaken as it approaches Florida, it could still be a major hurricane with widespread effects.
In light of Ian’s forecast, all countries with a stake in Florida’s Gulf Coast should immediately begin preparing for a hurricane. Heed the advice of your local emergency management on whether or not to evacuate and stock up on supplies in case the outage lasts for some time.