rapidly intensifying Monday as the massive storm hurtled toward Cuba and Florida, prompting a swath of hurricane and storm surge warnings in Florida and the first evacuations along the state’s west coast.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Ian was about 500 miles wide and more evacuations are expected as Ian draws closer to his state. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 115 miles, the hurricane center said.
“Floridians up and down the Gulf Coast should feel the impacts of this,” DeSantis said Monday at the state Emergency Operations Center. “This is a really, really big hurricane at this point.”
The storm was about 155 miles southeast of Cuba as of 5 p.m. Monday, moving north-northwest at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane.
What does that mean?
AccuWeather meteorologists are warning that the storm could slam the west coast of Florida – an often-missed target. The U.S. database shows that about 160 hurricanes, excluding tropical storms, have affected Florida. Only 17 have made landfall on the west coast north of the Florida Keys.
Most storms typically travel northeast or northwest, not up the coast, AccuWeather senior weather editor Jesse Ferrell said. There is no record of a hurricane ever having tracked entirely up the west coast of Florida since records began in 1944. But Ian appears likely to take a “very unusual track,” he said.
Florida has been the target of recent storms that were hurricanes but were downgraded to tropical storms before landfall, Ferrell said. Elsa in 2021 made landfall west of Tampa, and Eta in 2020 made landfall north of Tampa in Cedar Key. Neither had the firepower close to a Category 3 storm, however.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Sergio Bustos, Tallahassee Democrat; The Associated Press
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