Business News/ News / World/  Hurricane Ian makes landfall over western Cuba, with Florida in its sights

Hurricane Ian made landfall over western Cuba on Tuesday and was headed for the west coast of Florida, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The Category 3 hurricane was about 5 miles south of the city of Pinar Del Rio, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, the Miami-based forecaster said.

Ian is expected to strengthen on Tuesday after emerging over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, reaching Category 4 strength before it approaches the Florida west coast, the NHC said.

A life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, flash floods and possible mudslides are expected in portions of western Cuba on Tuesday, the NHC added. More than 300,000 people are expected to evacuate.

“This is a life threatening situation," the Brad Reinhart, a hurricane specialist at the center, said in his analysis. “Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials."

Tropical storm winds could reach Florida Tuesday, with hurricane conditions arriving Wednesday morning, bringing the potential for significant river flooding across central parts of the state.

Hurricanes reach “major" or Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale when their maximum sustained winds hit 111 miles per hour.

Parts of western Cuba are set to receive as much as 16 inches (41 centimeters) of rain through Thursday, according to the hurricane center. Flash flooding and mudslides could occur. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel warned the nation Monday that it would be facing a “challenging week."

Ian will ride up Florida’s west coast. The state will very likely see widespread surge, wave and rain impacts no matter where it hits, Ryan Truchelut, president of WeatherTiger, said in an email.

Its winds are forecast to peak at 140 mph late Tuesday through Wednesday, before dropping to 120 mph on Thursday, the center said. The storm will encounter wind shear in 36 to 48 hours, which will hold it back from gaining even more strength.

Still, Hurricane Ian could be the worst storm to hit Tampa in 101 years, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. The area has had many close calls in recent years, but the last devastating strike on the Tampa-St. Petersburg area was a 1921 storm that would have cost $30 billion today.

On its current track, Ian could bring tropical-storm strength winds to more than half the orange-growing acreage in the state, Watson said.

President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Florida on Saturday, freeing federal disaster aid to the state. He also postponed a scheduled trip on Tuesday to the state that included a Democratic National Committee rally in Orlando. Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency across Florida and warned residents to prepare.

Ian is the second destructive hurricane to rip across the Atlantic in less than a week, following Hurricane Fiona. Fiona struck Atlantic Canada over the weekend, causing extensive damage, power outages and flooding across Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Damages to the region are estimated at $3.5 billion, though secondary factors and rain may push costs above $4.5 billion, according to Enki Research’s Watson.


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Updated: 27 Sep 2022, 05:05 PM IST
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