Hurricane Ian makes landfall in western Cuba as Category 3 storm, threatening path of destruction as it moves toward Florida


Residents in some coastal areas were evacuated as the rapidly intensifying Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba early Tuesday as the hurricane was en route to Florida.

The National Hurricane Center said the hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, made landfall southwest of the town of La Coloma in Cuba’s Pinal del Rio province at 4:30 a.m.

The region is experiencing severe wind waves and storm surges that could raise water levels off the coast of Cuba up to 14 feet above normal. Hurricane Center Say.

The storm is expected to move north-northwest across the island, causing devastating wind damage in its path, therefore to the center.

It is expected to appear in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and continue toward Florida, passing west of the Florida Keys late Tuesday, and approaching the west coast of Florida late Wednesday through Thursday.

The hurricane is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-strength winds across much of Florida’s west coast by midweek.

While its exact path remains uncertain, forecasts suggest the Tampa area could be hit directly by a hurricane for the first time since 1921, with potentially devastating effects on the region.

“It’s something we’ve never seen in our lifetime … so we absolutely need to take it seriously,” said Rick Davis, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Tampa office.

According to the latest advisory from the Hurricane Center, a hurricane warning has been issued from Bonita Beach to the Anclote River, which includes Tampa Bay. That means “a hurricane condition is expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case, within 24 to 36 hours,” the center said.

The threatening approach to Florida from the hurricane has sparked statewide preparations as officials announced school closures and flight cancellations and the military began to mobilize ships and planes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of power outages and possible evacuations and fuel shortages, telling people to “get ready now.”

On Florida’s west coast, officials are urging residents to stay away from danger rather than stay and protect their property. “It’s nothing to mess with. If you can leave, leave now,” Tampa Mayor Jane Custer said Monday.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in some areas Pinellas Hillsborough County and emergency shelters open.

“When we issued a mandatory evacuation, it meant that if you don’t and you ask for help, we’re not coming because we’re not going to put our people at risk because you’re not putting them at risk, and we’re not putting them at risk. “Don’t listen to what we tell you to do,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gultiri said.

Evacuation orders are also in effect for low-lying areas of Charlotte County, as well as Sarasota, Hernando and Manatee counties.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, said Tuesday should see more evacuations in some counties in northern Florida, inland and southern Gulf.

With the tropical storm likely to start Tuesday night, officials are concerned about Ian’s storm surge — the wind from a strong storm that pushes water ashore and causes water levels to rise.

A storm surge warning is in effect for the Anclote River as far south as Flamingo and Tampa Bay, with flooding potentially up to 10 feet.

The Tampa Bay area is particularly vulnerable to storm surge, and even if the area isn’t directly hit by a hurricane, flooding can cause catastrophic damage.

Waves churned under dark skies off the coast of Batabano, Cuba, on Monday.

Tampa Power said it may have to voluntarily shut down power at the southern end of downtown early Wednesday in an effort to “avoid severe damage to underground equipment from seawater storm surges, which would significantly shorten recovery time after a storm.”

Tampa Bay International Airport will suspend operations at 5 p.m. Tuesday, DeSantis said Monday. The Port of Tampa Bay also plans to suspend operations at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the governor said.

Residents across the state lined up on Monday to fill up sandbags or get bottled water in preparation for the storm.

Resident Khadijah Jones told CNN she queued for three hours Monday in Tampa to get free sandbags, not sure if her home would be flooded.

“Just do the basics … secure loose materials in the yard, put sandbags in low places, and have items ready in case of a power outage,” she said.

A series of closures and cancellations have been announced as the storm approaches.

HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg announced the suspension of services and the transfer of patients.

Colleges and universities across the state — like Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and the University of South Florida in Tampa — are taking steps to prepare, including evacuating campuses or moving to online classes.

At the K-12 level, the Hillsborough County School said it “had no choice” but to cancel classes as the campus became a storm shelter. Surrounding counties including Citrus, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando also announced closures this week.

Disney World announced temporary closures of some resorts from Wednesday to Friday due to weather conditions. At least three cruise lines have also begun changing passenger routes because of the hurricane.

Richie Reynolds and his 18-year-old son John filled sandbags at Ben T. Davis Beach in Tampa, Florida, on Monday.

To ease road congestion for people leaving evacuation zones, the Florida Department of Transportation may authorize emergency use of the shoulder, which allows drivers to use the shoulder at a slower pace, said Guthrie, the state’s director of emergency management.

If residents are urged to leave, officials will deploy personnel and equipment to respond quickly when the recovery begins.

Due to the potential for widespread power outages, Florida Power and Light announced the activation of an emergency response plan, mobilizing 13,000 personnel. The company will work to restore power “as long as it is safe to do so,” including using smart grid technology to restore power to customers remotely when possible, the release said.

Resources from out of state are also pouring in, Guthrie said.

DeSantis announced Monday that the Florida National Guard activated 5,000 Florida soldiers and 2,000 additional soldiers from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden approved Ian’s disaster declaration.

“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to alleviate the hardship and suffering the emergency is causing to the local population,” the White House said in a press release.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency in Florida — a move designed to give health care providers and suppliers greater leverage in meeting urgent medical needs, his office said. flexibility.

“We will do everything we can to assist Florida officials with the health impacts of Hurricane Ian,” Becerra said. “We are working closely with state, local and tribal health authorities and our federal partners and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”

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