Hurricane Ian strengthened into an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds at 140 mph, and is expected to cause life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding in the Florida Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.
Tornadoes also are a risk and several warnings and watches have been issued around the state into Wednesday morning as rain bands move across Florida.
Ian slammed into Cuba Tuesday, a Category 3 monster pounding the island with 125 mph winds. High winds and storm surge are still expected farther north into the Tampa Bay region, state Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said.
The latest. Today's updateHurricane Ian: Here's what South Carolina can expect as historic storm makes landfall
Hundreds of thousands of Floridians faced mandatory evacuation orders as the National Hurricane Center expanded its hurricane warning along more than 150 miles of the state's Gulf Coast. Power outages can be expected statewide, Florida Power & Light warned.
SC Gov. Henry McMaster's briefing on Hurricane Ian
Governor Henry McMaster held a live, media briefing with the state emergency management officials Tuesday afternoon.
"We are fully prepared for whatever comes," McMaster said. "We will be making announcements as necessary and we would urge everyone to get information from official sources. We know we are going to have a lot of water, a lot of wind and we know we are going to experience some rough weather."
Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, John Quagliariello, Ian will likely impact the entire state, both coastal and inlands, beginning on Thursday and going into the weekend.
"Ian is currently a Category 3 hurricane, with wind speeds of 120 mph. It is located about 255 miles south of Sarasota, Florida and is moving north at 10 mph," Quagliariello said. "Tropical storm and storm surge watches were issued earlier this morning for the coast from Charleston County south to the Georgia state line."
Depending on the storm's track, Ian could cross over Florida and move back into the Atlantic Ocean instead of moving north through Georgia and South Carolina.
"If it does emerge over the Atlantic, it's still forecast to be a tropical storm," Quagliariello said. "It has the potential to maintain intensity or maybe even strengthen a little bit. It's something we'd want to closely monitor if it does make it into the Atlantic. We don't have those answers just yet, but we will continue to monitor it over the next day or two. "
Director of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, Kim Stenson, said the team of South Carolina has a great deal of experience preparing for storms, including hurricanes, in recent years.
"We are closely monitoring Hurricane Ian's forecast and working closely with local authorities, county emergency managers, state partners and obviously the NWS to respond to the storm," Stenson said. "We started conducting daily coordination calls with the local authorities and county emergency managers last Sunday to identify and issues or unmet needs."
Stenson said it's important for residents to go over their emergency plans.
"Residents should review their personal safety plans and consider actions needed to take if threatened by any storm or disaster including having bottled water and nonperishable food for a three-day period," Stenson said. "Have items like weather radios, batteries, flashlights and chargers. Know where important documents are, in the event residents must leave their homes."
Residents are encouraged to visit the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website for information in regards to preparations and evacuation routes.
Hurricane Ian impact on South Carolina: Tuesday update
Hurricane Ian's remnant's are expected to approach the Upstate of South Carolina Friday into Saturday. According to the National Weather Service, the hurricane is still unpredictable as "there is still some uncertainty in the exact track and timing."
Heavier rain bands are expected to push into the Upstate Friday afternoon into early Saturday morning. Rain could continue into Sunday and Monday.
"It's expected to make landfall somewhere in the central, Florida peninsula on the west coast by the end of the day tomorrow. It will pop into the Carolinas over the weekend," said Justin Lane, a NWS meteorologist. "The magnitude of these impacts are still uncertain, because we won't see them for at least four days.
"We are going to have some impacts, gusty winds beginning on Thursday and heavy rains beginning on Friday through the weekend. It's too early to tell, but people should start preparing for at least localized flooding on the weekend."
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The Upstate's rainfall probability from the remnants of Ian could be between 4 and 8 inches.
Peak sustained winds could reach 23 mph and peak wind gusts could now reach 31 mph.
Ian's storm surge, winds blast Cuba
Ian made landfall on Cuba's western tip, where officials set up shelters, rushed in emergency personnel and worked to protect crops in Cuba’s tobacco-growing region.
"Significant wind and storm surge impacts (are) occurring over Cuba," said Daniel Brown, senior hurricane specialist and the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The storm was forecast to roll off Cuba and strengthen to a Category 4 storm over warm, Gulf of Mexico waters. The storm's winds could reach 140 mph before reaching Florida as soon as Wednesday.
Hurricane Ian tracker
Ian will slow down over the Gulf, growing wider and stronger, “which will have the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along the west coast of Florida,” the hurricane center said.
Ian was forecast to emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday and Wednesday night. The storm is predicted to slow during this period, the National Hurricane Center warned in an advisory.
"This would likely prolong the storm surge, wind and rainfall impacts along the affected portions of the west coast of Florida," the advisory says.
- This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
- USA Today's John Bacon contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Hurricane Ian impact on South Carolina: Here's what to expect