All signs point to Tropical Storm Ian hitting Florida as a hurricane by the middle of next week. As the storm’s potential track moves north and west, the latest forecasts suggest Southeast Florida may avoid initial damage.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian was expected to strengthen rapidly and become a hurricane on Sunday. As of the 8 a.m. advisory, Ian was moving west-northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. As of 8 a.m., it was 320 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and 590 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba.
There is a hurricane watch for Grand Cayman, a hurricane watch for the western Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Río, and Artemisa, and a tropical storm watch for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, and the Cuban provinces of Havana, Mayabeque, and Madanzas.
On Saturday night, parts of coastal Alabama joined much of Florida’s west coast in a five-day uncertainty.
The advisory said: “A turn to the west-northwest and northwest is expected at a similar forward speed on Sunday, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Monday and to the north on Tuesday. Along the forecast track, Ioan’s center will pass well southwest of Jamaica on Sunday and move near or west of the Cayman Islands early Monday.” Estimated. Ian will move near or over western Cuba by Monday night and early Tuesday and emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.”
If Ian makes landfall in Cuba, it is expected to be a major hurricane (sustained winds of at least 111 mph).
The track forecast has been moving west since the last update. However, there is a lot of uncertainty.
“Significant dispersion is observed even among members of the GFS ensemble, with conditions ranging from the north-central Gulf of Mexico to the west coast of Florida,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Heavy rains, flash floods and mudslides are possible in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, with heavy rains hitting Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the coming days.
However, that doesn’t mean South Floridians should be happy. The cone may still move east, and even if it doesn’t, the cone only shows where the center of the hurricane might be, not the destruction it can cause.
“I know a lot of South Floridians who look at the chart and take it as the Holy Grail,” Shawn Patty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said Saturday afternoon. “But it’s important to remember that there is volatility with that and the implications extend beyond what the cone can show.”
Those impacts include extreme flooding, tropical storm winds and hurricanes.
The uncertainty cone predicts that the center of a hurricane will be there two-thirds of the time, Patty said. But subtle changes in trajectory can make a big difference, and the Gulf’s warm waters and potential land contact with Cuba can create those changes.
“This weekend, make all the preparations for a worst-case scenario,” Patty said.
A “reasonable” worst-case scenario at this time still includes all the impacts associated with a major hurricane. But if the storm moves west, South Florida could see only high tides and strong winds.
By the weekend, the path of the cyclone will become more visible. By Sunday night into Monday morning, forecasters say they’ll have a better idea of what’s coming and whether South Florida can be spared from the storm’s impact.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday. Previously, states of emergency had been declared for only 24 counties, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. The emergency order says the Florida National Guard will be activated and ready to respond as needed.
The National Weather Service said Saturday that warm waters in the Caribbean and the Gulf could make the storm a hurricane as soon as Sunday, with “rapid intensification” possible. According to the latest advisory, heavy rain could begin to fall in South Florida on Monday, causing limited urban and flash flooding risk.
Meanwhile, tropical storm-force winds could begin in South Florida Monday night, but most likely Tuesday night.
Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, encouraged South Floridians to prepare for the weekend.
“It’s time to start getting those hurricane plans out there, making sure everyone knows where their tools are, their water, their insurance documents, and all the things they need,” Garcia said. “Stay tuned for what happens with the forecast. Things will pick up over the weekend and early next week where that focus is needed.”
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management issued a news release Friday announcing that it is preparing for a possible landslide and urging Floridians to prepare their homes for the storm.
“It’s critical that Floridians stay aware and prepared — it only takes one storm to cause costly or irreversible damage to your home or business,” FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie said in the statement.
The National Hurricane Center is also tracking other Atlantic storms.
Tropical Storm Hermine continues to bring rain to the Canary Islands on Sunday and is poised to become a residual low, forecasters said.
Hurricane Fiona weakened to a tropical cyclone early Sunday morning, and the National Hurricane Center has not issued storm advisories.
Fiona is the first major hurricane of the 2022 season, meaning Category 3 and above.
Forecasters are tracking a broad area of low pressure in the Atlantic that has a 20% chance of forming over the next five days, although Ian remains the biggest concern.
“The thing to watch for sure is the system heading into the southeastern Caribbean,” said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical Storm Gaston is expected to continue to weaken and become a post-tropical cyclone by Sunday morning.
Hurricane season ends on November 30. Julia is the next named storm after Ian.
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