Ian strengthens into a Category 4 storm as it heads towards the US state of Florida after plunging Cuba into darkness.
Hurricane Ian is heading towards Florida after it tore into western Cuba as a catastrophic Category 4 storm.
Here is what we know about the tropical storm so far:
What happened and when?
- Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province on Tuesday at 08:30 GMT, plunging the island into darkness after battering the country’s west for more than five hours before moving back out over the Gulf of Mexico, the Insmet meteorological institute said.
- “The system was already operating under complex conditions with the passage of Hurricane Ian,” said Lazaro Guerra, the technical director of Cuba’s Electricity Union. “There is no electricity service in any part of the country right now.”
- At the time of impact, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported Ian’s maximum wind speeds at 205 kilometres (125 miles) per hour.
- The storm left at least two dead in western Cuba, state-run media reported. Local authorities said about 40,000 people were evacuated across Pinar del Rio province.
- As it moved away from Cuba, by late Tuesday night, tropical storm force extended through the Florida Keys island chain to the southernmost shores of the state’s Gulf Coast.
Where is it heading next?
- According to US authorities, the hurricane is expected to hit the state of Florida on Wednesday, with forecasters warning of life-threatening storm surges and “devastating” winds.
- Ian has strengthened into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, adding that it was expected to weaken after reaching land.
- Citing the NHC, Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Ian will likely make landfall in Venice, Florida.
- A Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale carries winds of up to 209km (130 miles) an hour and can reach 251km (156 miles) per hour.
What is expected?
- NHC warned that Ian would unleash pounding surf, life-threatening coastal flooding and more than a foot (30cm) of rain in some areas.
- Authorities urged more than 2.5 million residents to evacuate their homes for higher ground.
- The Florida coastal zone at highest risk for US landfall is home to miles of sandy beaches, dozens of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks, a favourite with retirees and vacationers alike.
- A storm surge is expected along the Florida west Coast and the lower Florida Keys, with the highest risk from Naples to the Sarasota region.
- Strong winds are expected in the hurricane warning area in southwest and west-central Florida beginning on Wednesday morning. Heavy rainfall will spread across the state through Thursday and reach portions of the southeast later this week and this weekend.
- Governor DeSantis said that more than 2.5 million people in Florida have been placed under some form of the evacuation order, with 1.75 million at least under mandatory evacuation orders.
- The Florida Division of Emergency Management on Twitter said that parts of south and central Florida are experiencing tornado watches and warnings.
- Separately, in Cuba, authorities are working to restore electricity.
- The damage is great, although it has not yet been possible to account for it,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel said on Twitter after visiting Pinar del Rio. “Aid is already pouring in from all over the country.”
The malecón right now as I drive home. pic.twitter.com/fGiUYPwnlK
— Patrick Oppmann CNN (@CNN_Oppmann) September 28, 2022
How can people in Florida prepare for it?
- The Red Cross has encouraged people to listen to the advice of local authorities and evacuate immediately if asked to do so.
- “Residents are quickly running out of time to leave. If you don’t plan to evacuate, have enough food and water for at least three days – it will be difficult for emergency workers to get help to you when weather conditions worsen,” the Red Cross said in a statement on Tuesday.
- The NWS recommends writing or reviewing a family emergency plan before the storm or hurricane hits, and “this consists in sitting down with family and close friends and deciding how to get in touch with each other, where to go, and how will you get in contact.”
- The agency also recommends having a basic emergency supply kit ready and encourages people to ensure that emergency equipment works correctly.
- Basic emergency items include non-perishable food and water (gallon [4.5 litres] per person, per day), dust mask, extra batteries, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlights, maps, first aid kits, local maps and storm shutters.
- They also recommend people to have medication such as pain relievers, instant formula, pet food, cash or traveller’s check.
- They also highlight keeping important documents saved electronically or in a waterproof container.
- To get a house ready, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends “clearing the yard and making sure that nothing could blow during the storm.”
- The CDC also advises people to protect windows and doors, particularly windows, to help keep people safe from pieces of shattered glass.
- Authorities also advise people to stay away from windows or glass doors.
- The CDC also advises people to be ready to turn off the power, prepare the water supply, and check the carbon dioxide detector’s battery to prevent CO2 poisoning.
- Authorities also recommend homeowners avoid staying in closed attics because they can become trapped by rising floodwater.
As we keep our eye on the tropics, just having enough supplies to make it through a hurricane isn’t enough. You need plenty to make it through what could be a long recovery period too. Prepare for AT LEAST three days. https://t.co/9Yrp70bCT5 #HurricanePrep #WeatherReady pic.twitter.com/4dKhDZf3zj
— National Weather Service (@NWS) September 22, 2022
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