Ian Makes Landfall in Cuba as Category 3 Storm, Takes Aim at Florida

Evacuations were underway along Florida’s Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ian churned toward the state and was expected to become a dangerous Category 4 hurricane after making landfall Tuesday morning in western Cuba.

Ian’s maximum sustained winds increased to 125 mph as it moved north-northwest at 12 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Tuesday morning.

The Category 3 storm made landfall around 4:30 a.m. southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio province of Cuba. Ian is forecast to reach its peak intensity as a Category 4 hurricane over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, with top winds of 140 mph when it makes landfall in Florida on Wednesday.

The hurricane center said Ian will slow down over the Gulf of Mexico, growing wider and stronger, “which will have the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along the west coast of Florida.”

Hurricane Ian on Path Toward Parts of Cuba, Florida: Watch the Track Live

“Obviously at this point, we want everyone to be safe, you have a significant storm that may end up being a Category 4 hurricane,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Monday.

A surge of up to 10 feet of ocean water and 10 inches of rain was predicted across the Tampa Bay area, enough water to inundate coastal communities.

A hurricane warning was issued for Florida’s west coast from Bonita Beach to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay, and the Dry Tortugas. A hurricane watch was issued from the Anclote River to the Suwannee River.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge westward to Key West, the Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge to the Channel 5 Bridge the Anclote River to the Suwanee River, the Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia/Brevard Line and from Flamingo to Englewood. A tropical storm watch was in effect for portions of Miami-Dade County including Homestead, Kendale Lakes, Country Walk, Redland and Everglades National Park, Deerfield Beach to the Jupiter Inlet, Lake Okeechobee and north of the Suwannee River to Indian Pass.

A storm surge warning was in effect for Tampa Bay and the Anclote River southward to Flamingo. A storm surge watch was also issued for the Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to Key West, including the Dry Tortugas, Florida Bay, the Aucilla River to Anclote River, Altamaha Sound to the Flagler/Volusia County Line, and the Saint Johns River.

NBC 6 has team coverage as the now Category 3 storm moves closer to the state.

Flash flooding and urban flooding was possible with rainfall across the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula through mid-week, NHC forecasters said. A few tornadoes are possible into Tuesday across the Florida Keys and the southern and central Florida peninsula.

“Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a Monday news conference on storm preparations in Tampa.

As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said at a news conference.

Some of those evacuations were beginning Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other locations opening as shelters. “We must do everything we can to protect our residents. Time is of the essence,” Wise said.

A hurricane warning was issued for the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa. A tropical storm warning was issued for for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas.

Authorities in Cuba suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and planned evacuations Monday as Ian gained strength on approach to Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. Cuba also was shutting down its train system ahead of the worst weather.

“Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane force winds, also life threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” U.S. National Hurricane Center senior specialist Daniel Brown told The Associated Press early Monday.

On the forecast track, Ian will move over western Cuba early Tuesday and emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Ian is then expected to move on a path to the Gulf Coast of Florida, with the center staying to the west of the Florida Keys, according to the latest advisory.

There was increasing confidence that life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds over portions of western Cuba could occur beginning late Monday. Up to 16 inches of rain could fall in parts of Cuba while up to 24 inches could fall in parts of Central West Florida, according to the NHC.

All schools and offices in the Monroe County School District will be closed Tuesday due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian. Monroe County Emergency Management was working to advise residents on specific details about the impacts from Ian.

Florida Power & Light was preparing more than 13,000 workers to assist with their response to Hurricane Ian, company officials said Monday.

The power company said they were pre-positioning workers and supplies to respond to any outages from the hurricane, which was forecast to possibly make landfall along Florida’s west coast later this week.

The threat of torrential rainfall over the next few days from Hurricane Ian has Miami residents on guard, knowing that even a typical thunderstorm can cause flooding.

The problem is expected to be compounded by a king tide this week.

On Monday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez reassured residents that all permanent water pumps are working, and seven additional portable pumps will be installed, as needed.

“We have created some additional pumping capacity in that area,” said Suarez. “We have to understand that that is in the midst of king tide where we have the highest tides of the year.”

The Florida Keys are preparing for the impacts of Hurricane Ian. NBC 6’s Jamie Guirola reports

DeSantis activated the state’s National Guard on Sunday ahead of the storm’s expected impact later in the week.

The governor’s declaration frees up emergency protective funding to address potential damage from storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.

 DeSantis expanded the declaration of a state of emergency Saturday to include the entire state.

“It’s important to point out to folks that the path of this is still uncertain. The impacts will be broad throughout the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday. “So from the Tampa Bay area all the way up to Escambia County along Florida’s Gulf Coast you could potentially see it make landfall in any of those places as of right now.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Monday night that the football team was relocating football operations to the Miami area in preparation for next weekend’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Buccaneers said the team will leave Tampa on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden has postponed a trip to South Florida next week due to Tropical Storm Ian, the White House announced Saturday.

Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state of Florida Saturday due to Ian, the White House said in a statement.

The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts resulting from Ian.

Hurricane Ian’s looming arrival also prompted NASA to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the lunar-orbiting test flight.