(WGHP) — Hurricane Ian is on a collision course with Cuba before continuing toward Florida and the southeastern United States.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, the National Hurricane Center reports that Ian is southeast of Cuba and heading northwest. Maximum sustained winds were recorded at 100 mph
“The latest update contains some very bad news. The hurricane is even stronger now,” said FOX8 Meteorologist Charles Ewing. “Before, it had winds between 80 and 85 miles per hour. Now the hurricane’s packing winds of 100 miles per hour, and there’s really nothing out here to stop it from getting even stronger…Wednesday it could have winds of 140 miles per hour.”
Forecasters expect Ian to turn toward the north-northwest later today and begin driving north, albeit slightly slower, on Tuesday.
Ian will likely pass near or west of the Cayman Islands on Monday. The storm will likely cross near or over western Cuba on Monday night and early Tuesday.
Forecasters predict that Ian will become a Category 3 major hurricane Monday night while the storm is near western Cuba.
On Tuesday, forecasters say Ian will emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and pass west of the Florida Keys. The storm is expected to approach Florida’s western coast on Wednesday.
North of Florida
Shallow waters immediately surrounding Florida’s Gulf coast is expected to weaken the storm to about a Category 1 by the time it reaches Gainesville, Florida.
While forecast maps show possible impacts as far north as North Carolina, the state is unlikely to see anything close to what Florida will be facing.
“There’s still a wide area of uncertainty,” said FOX8 Meteorologist Emily Byrd. “It’s looking like we’re going to have some rain from this story and perhaps some thunderstorms too, but it’s going to be much, much weaker as it gets closer to North Carolina and South Carolina.”
The National Hurricane Center’s map of topical-storm-force winds shows the possibility of the storm reaching South Carolina around 8 a.m. Thursday and North Carolina about 12 hours later. NHC puts the most likely arrival time tropical storm-force winds at about 8 a.m. Friday for much of South Carolina.
Byrd says high clouds may begin to roll in from the southwest and the remnants of Ian may churn through the southeastern U.S. by this weekend.
“We’ll have a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms Friday and Saturday with highs in the mid- to upper 60s,” Byrd said. “Sunday, there is a 40% chance of scattered showers and highs will rise to the lower 70s.”
Watches and Warnings
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:
- Grand Cayman
- Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:
- Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas
- Lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge westward to Key West
- Dry Tortugas
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:
- Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to Key West
- Dry Tortugas
- Florida Bay
- Anclote River southward to the Card Sound Bridge
- Tampa Bay
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:
- Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:
- Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
- Englewood southward to Chokoloskee
Storm surge, paired with the tide, could cause several feet of flooding in parts of Florida.
If peak surge hits at the same time as high tide, water could reach:
- 5 to 8 feet from the Anclote River to Englewood, including Tampa Bay
- 4 to 7 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor
- 3 to 5 feet from Bonita Beach to East Cape Sable
- 2 to 4 feet from East Cape Sable to Card Sound Bridge, including Florida Bay
- 2 to 4 feet from Florida Keys, including the Dry Tortugas
Western Cuba could see water levels rise by as much as 9 to 14 feet
above normal tide levels.
Through Thursday, the National Hurricane Center is expecting the following rainfall:
- 3 to 6 inches in the Cayman Islands
- 6 to 10 inches in western Cuba
- 4 to 6 inches in the Florida Keys
- 8 to 10 inches in central west Florida
- 3 to 8 inches across the rest of the Florida Peninsula
Tornadoes are possible late tonight and Tuesday across the Florida Keys and the southern and central Florida
Peninsula, NHC reports. And swells are “likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”