Hurricane Ian continued to bear down on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Tuesday as an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” after it knocked out power to all of Cuba, officials said.
The Category 3 hurricane was moving northeast Tuesday night at 10 mph over the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to pass west of the Florida Keys before it slams into a stretch of coastline between Naples and Tampa on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters late Tuesday that the latest forecast track appeared to show the storm making landfall at Charlotte and Lee counties, south of Tampa.
The storm, which had sustained winds of 120 mph and a projected storm surge of up to 12 feet in some areas, was forecast to strengthen overnight, the National Hurricane Center said.
Storm surge flooding was already occurring early Wednesday across the lower Florida Keys, the center said.
More than 2 million people along Florida’s Gulf Coast were under evacuation orders, DeSantis said.
He urged people who hadn’t left already to do so immediately and warned of the havoc the slow-moving storm could unleash across the state.
“When it actually reaches landfall, it’s going to slow to a trickle,” DeSantis said. “That’s going to dump an enormous amount of rain on the state of Florida.”
Rain totals of 6 to 8 inches were forecast for much of the Florida Keys and South Florida. A foot to 18 inches was expected for the central and northeastern parts of the state, the hurricane center said.
DeSantis warned of possible tornadoes that had been spotted on radar and said bridges were likely to be closed Wednesday.
Thousands of people in the southern part of the state had already lost power Tuesday night — a number DeSantis said would quickly rise into the millions by Wednesday.
The latest on Hurricane Ian
- The Category 3 storm was 95 miles from Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, early Wednesday.
- Ian knocked out power to all of Cuba after making landfall Tuesday
- Tropical storm-force winds have reached Florida’s southern peninsula.
- About 2.5 million residents are under some type of evacuation order in Florida.
- Ian was producing storm surge flooding early Wednesday across the lower Florida Keys.
In Cuba, where Ian made landfall early Tuesday in the western province of Pinar del Río, the entire island of 11.3 million people was without power after the storm damaged its power grid, the country’s national electric service said Tuesday.
The agency said it expected power to be restored Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Reuters reported that violent wind gusts shattered windows and ripped metal roofs off old homes and buildings.
Roads into the areas directly hit by the hurricane remained impassable, blocked by downed trees and power lines, Reuters reported.
Hirochi Robaina, the owner of a cigar factory in Pinar del Río, posted nearly two dozen photos Tuesday on Facebook showing the wreckage the storm left behind.
Michelle Acevedo and Carmen Gonzalez contributed.
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