Tropical Storm Ian, which formed late Friday over the central Caribbean Sea, could threaten Florida as a major hurricane early next week after cutting across western Cuba, forecasters said.
The 8 p.m. update today from the National Hurricane Center keeps Palm Beach County out of the "cone" of potential impacts. Forecasters were predicting a landfall north of Tampa early Friday morning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday expanded a "state of emergency" to all 67 Florida counties in preparation for Ian, which is expected to become Hurricane Ian in the coming days.
“The threat posed by Tropical Storm Ian requires that timely precautions are taken to protect the communities, critical infrastructure, and general welfare of Florida,” the governor said in his amended executive order issued Saturday afternoon.
“Tropical Storm Ian is forecasted to become a major hurricane before making landfall along Florida’s west coast,” he said. DeSantis is scheduled to hold a press conference in Tallahassee at 11 a.m. today.
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At the Publix Supermarket at Okeechobee Boulevard and North Jog Road on Saturday, the store had run out of cases of bottled water and lemonade by noon.
By 3 p.m., when the water was restocked, customers swarmed the shelves.
Some residents, such as 24-year-old James Kraus of West Palm Beach, were taking the storm in stride.
"I'm not really doing anything to prepare. I grew up in Florida, so I think I'm pretty much always prepared for a hurricane. And there's nothing that I've seen making me think this one will be special," Kraus said. "I'm just going to get some water and forget about it until someone tells me I can't come into work."
National Weather Service meteorologist Sammy Hadi noted that Ian, which was about
As of 8 a.m., Ian was packing winds of 50 mph as it moved west-northwest at 12 mph. It was about 320 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman islands, where a hurricane watch was in effect. A hurricane watch was also in effect for three of Cuba's western provinces.
Crews in Tampa, on Florida’s west coast, began to remove debris and clear drains before the potential storm, to prevent drainage issues and chances of flooding.
Ian is expected to generate 2 to 4 inches of rain in parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, 4 to 8 inches in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and 6 to 10 inches in western and central Cuba, the center said.
This rainfall could lead to flash flooding and mudslides in higher-terrain areas, particularly in Jamaica and Cuba, forecasters said. Swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
"The storm is starting to have more thunderstorms around its center. It is currently gradually strengthening," said National Weather Service meteorologist Sammy Hadi. "It's just to the southeast of Jamaica at the moment, and it's expected to continue moving west, northwest, across the Caribbean today before turning more northerly, tomorrow and Monday."
Will Ian hit Florida? When?
Weather forecasters were predicting a landfall north of Tampa on the state's northwest coast, or in the western Panhandle as a hurricane at about 2 a.m. Friday.
"It could make landfall farther to the south, it could make landfall farther to the west. At this point, really no location is set in stone," he said. "It's just a projected path at the moment, it could easily shift. And the average error, five days out, is 200 miles."
And a landfall farther away from South Florida doesn't mean its effects won't be felt, Hadi said.
"So, let's say if a track were to shift farther east, you'd expect Palm Beach County to have a little bit more impact. If the track were to continue to shift west, you would have a little bit of less impact," he said. "But, you know, a hurricane's not a single point. Impacts extend hundreds of miles away from the center. So, it's very important that you know that even if it makes landfall north of Tampa, there still could be effects well to the east."
Sean Helton of Florida Power & Light said the area's chief power company is ready to restore power should it be lost.
"We are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Ian and preparing for potential impacts to Florida," Helton said. "FPL prepares year-round for storm season and we will be ready to respond to whatever this system throws our way."
Meteorologist Ryan Truchelut of Tallahassee weather forecaster WeatherTiger predicted Ian had only a 5% chance of striking Southeast Florida and the Keys.
"This scenario requires both a stronger trough and a more northward initial track, in which Ian is crossing west-central Cuba on Monday and then races northeast across the Keys and South Florida on Tuesday," Truchelut wrote.
"We’ll see if there is any hint of a swing back in this direction, but for now, the threat is diminishing in Southeast Florida," he wrote.
The governor's declaration frees up emergency protective funding and activates members of the Florida National Guard, his office said. His order stresses that there is risk for storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.
President Biden issued an emergency declaration for Florida late Saturday in advance of Ian's arrival.
Ian is the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 39 mph.
The New York Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Hurricane Ian path: Palm Beach County appears out of cone for impact