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TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) — Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Monday as it continues to make a projected path toward Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The 11 p.m. advisory said that Ian was 140 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and 390 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba. The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving northwest at 13 mph.
Rapid strengthening is expected to turn Ian into a hurricane on Monday and a major hurricane on Tuesday. As of the latest update, tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles from the center of the storm.
According to the NHC, the center of Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands on Monday, and near or over western Cuba Monday night and early Tuesday.
The NHC predicted that by Tuesday, Ian could reach major hurricane strength, which is at least a category three. The updated live track, which has continued to shift eastward, shows Ian as being a category four while in the gulf.
“This shift eastward has been a gradual trend all day and is believable and makes meteorological sense. It is a more threatening track for the Bay Area,” said WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli. “While there is still time for shifts, and there likely will be some, but we need to prepare for a direct hit or a very close call. Either way the impacts would be significant.”
Florida is expected to feel the first of Ian’s impact through the midweek, with flash and urban flooding possible due to rainfall across the Florida Keys and Peninsula. The NHC said northern Florida, the Pandhandle, and parts of the southeastern United States may also see heavy rain Thursday through Friday.
The NHC said the Florida Keys and the southern and central portions of the Florida Peninsula could see two to four inches of rain with maximum local totals of six inches starting Monday through Wednesday.
Tropical storm conditions are possible along the Florida west coast by Tuesday evening.
Several feet of storm surge is forecast for areas along the Florida gulf coast. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect.
“A track like the National Hurricane Center shows, even if it avoids a direct hit, would cause several feet plus of storm surge along the coast of the Bay Area from the Nature Coast southward into Pinellas and Tampa Bay,” Berardelli said. “Several feet is conservative, as it would likely be much more in spots. People in evacuation zones may be asked to leave in the next 1 to 2 days so please be aware of your zone.”
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 southward to Key West, including Dry Tortugas
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:
- Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
- Englewood southward to Chokoloskee in Southwest Florida
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:
- Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to Key West
- Dry Tortugas
- West coast of Florida from Englewood southward to the Card Sound
- Florida Bay