Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian gained strength over the Caribbean and was forecast to become a major hurricane soon on a track toward the state.
DeSantis had initially issued the emergency order for two dozen counties on Friday. But he expanded the warning to the entire state, urging residents to prepare for a storm that could lash large swaths of Florida.
“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts of this storm.”
President Joe Biden also declared an emergency for the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida due to the storm.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian was forecast to strengthen before moving over western Cuba and toward the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of next week. The agency said Floridians should have hurricane plans in place and advised residents to monitor updates of the storm’s evolving path.
The center issued an updated advisory at 5 a.m. Sunday, which noted the tropical storm was forecast to begin “rapidly strengthening later today” with the “risk of significant wind and storm surge impacts increasing for western Cuba.”
Ian was expected to become a hurricane Sunday and a major hurricane as soon as late Monday. The storm had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) on Sunday morning as it swirled about 345 miles (555 kilometers) southeast of Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands.
A hurricane warning remained in effect for the island and hurricane watches were issued for western Cuba. John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center, said it wasn’t yet clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida. He said the state’s residents should begin preparing for the storm, including gathering supplies for potential power outages. (AP)