People who live in coastal areas in and around the Tampa Bay area have been given the order to evacuate, and they are being encouraged to go even short distances inland in order to escape the fierce storm.
According to the most recent advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center, Ian is forecast to move over western Cuba in the coming few hours while maintaining its current strength. Ian is then forecast to strengthen late in the morning as it emerges southeast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is anticipated that later on Tuesday it will travel west of the Florida Keys, and that it will be a major hurricane by the time it reaches the west coast of Florida on Wednesday night.
Before making landfall at La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio Province of Cuba, the storm strengthened overnight to become a hurricane of Category 3, with maximum winds projected to reach more than 115 mph. The National Hurricane Center issued a warning that mudslides, hurricane-force winds, and life-threatening storm surges were expected overnight in western Cuba and into Tuesday. Residents were urged to quickly evacuate and protect their property in advance of these potentially catastrophic weather events.
At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Hurricane Ian had become even more intense, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph as it headed north at a speed of 12 mph. At that time, it was located about 130 miles southwest of Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys.
Hurricane Ian poses a significant risk of bringing life-threatening floods and devastating gusts to the Florida Gulf Coast. It seems like Ian will make landfall between the areas of Naples and the Big Bend region of the west coast between Wednesday and Thursday. It is anticipated that it may strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane by late Tuesday night, with winds of up to 140 miles per hour. If this happens, it would be the most powerful September hurricane to hit the Gulf of Mexico since Rita in 2005. After making its way into Florida, the storm is forecast to weaken slightly before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum winds of 125 mph.
The storm surge may be the most dangerous hazard posed by the hurricane. The National Hurricane Center projects that Hurricane Ian will bring storm surges along the coast of Florida that may reach heights of up to 10 feet, posing a threat that is both potentially lethal and catastrophic.