Photos from the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba show damage, downed trees and flooding as Category 3 Hurricane Ian made landfall on the western side of the island country.
A tornado watch has been issued for South Florida on Tuesday morning, associated with the outer bands of Hurricane Ian moving into the southern parts of Florida.
The watch runs until 5 p.m. ET this evening.
The watch, issued from the Storm Prediction Center, covers more than 6 million people including the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
“A very moist airmass and strengthening low-level shear will support an increasing tornado potential from the Florida Keys across the southern Peninsula through the afternoon,” the center said.
Some context: Tornadoes are frequently associated with hurricanes and tropical storms, and can occur hundreds of miles away from the center of the hurricane. Tornadoes in tropical systems tend to be short-lived and difficult to predict with much lead time, compared to more traditional tornadoes produced by supercells and strong thunderstorms in the Central Plains and South.
As Tampa International Airport prepares to suspend operations today at 5 p.m. ET due to approaching Hurricane Ian, airport CEO Joe Lopano said the economic impact of shutting down is “in the millions.”
“Unfortunately, Ian has not given us a choice,” Lopano said. “We'll just make it as painless as we can, open as quickly as we can, depending … on the severity of the storm, and we'll resume from there.”
The airport has a team of storm riders made up of about 120 employees who have trained for hurricane events and will ride out the storm, Lopano said.
“We have planned and we've put all of the measures in place that we believe we need to put in place to be as prepared as we can,” he added.
The top concern is storm surge and flooding, according to John Tiliacos, executive vice president of airport operations.
Tiliacos also reminded the public that the airport is not a shelter and doesn’t have the resources to serve as one for vehicles or people during a hurricane.
After the storm passes, the airport's focus will shift toward reopening the airport.
“We recognize the importance of this asset in order to have the community recover as quickly as possible,” Lopano said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a cautious reminder to Floridians, saying residents should not think Hurricane Ian could be like Hurricane Charley, which slammed the coast in 2004 — Charley was a lot smaller, he said.
"This is a much different storm. Charley was a lot smaller, it was powerful, it was a Category 4. Most of the damage from Charley was from wind and wind destruction. What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential. And so if you're looking at those places in Fort Myers, Charlotte County, Sarasota — the storm surge that you're going to see generated from this is going to far eclipse what we saw [during Charley,]" DeSantis explained at a Tuesday press briefing.
DeSantis acknowledge that there is a possibility that Ian's track may end up being similar to Charley's.
"I know there's folks in southwest Florida who remember Hurricane Charley was projected to make a direct impact into Tampa Bay, and then it turned and went into southwest Florida. I would just say the track may end up doing something similar, but this is a much different storm."
Given the circumstances, he urged that residents in Ian's projected path at the moment should heed the evacuation orders in their area.
"What those evacuation orders are doing is identifying people that live in areas that are vulnerable to major storm surge. And that storm surge can be life-threatening. There's certain things we can protect against in terms of the wind and the structures, and we've got great building codes. But when you have five to 10 feet of storm surge, that's not something that you want to be a part of," he said.
Hernando County, which is located north of Tampa, is expecting the arrival of tropical-force winds from Hurricane Ian starting at noon on Wednesday, according to officials. Sustained winds, increasing up to hurricane-level winds, are anticipated for the next two days.
According to Hernando County administrator Jeff Rogers, the county will see a storm surge between 8-10 feet, depending on where Ian makes landfall, particularly impacting roadways and ground-level houses in coastal communities.
Rogers warned that the county will have a significant amount of rainfall — of up to over 14 inches — which will be “more than any significant storm event” recently experienced. Anywhere that has seen flooding previously will likely have flooding again, he said.
“Those flooding concerns will occur again in the next 48 hours, and they'll most likely be worse than they were before,” Rogers said. “Throughout the community, anybody that lives in manufactured homes or in RV communities, we strongly urge you to consider whether or not your manufactured homes can withstand the increased amount of winds for a long duration.”
Rogers said Hernando County is also expecting significant loss of power starting late Wednesday night into Thursday, as the amount of rainfall will cause downed trees. He asked residents to be prepared for a loss of power for three to five days starting on Thursday and Friday.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba early this morning as a major hurricane — a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds.
The last major hurricane [Category 3 or greater] to strike Cuba was Hurricane Irma in 2017. But specifically in western Cuba, Hurricane Gustav in 2008 was the last major hurricane to make landfall.
More than 1 million people reside in the three Cuban provinces that have experienced hurricane-force winds — Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa.
An additional 3 million people are experiencing tropical-storm-force winds in the three provinces under a tropical storm warning — La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas.
As Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian's menacing approach here is what you should know about the forecast and potential impact on the state.
On rainfall: Ian is expected to dump at least 2 to 3 months’ worth of rainfall by Friday. Totals are expected to be 12 to 16 inches with maximums up to 24” in Tampa and West Central Florida. The average month of September brings about 6 inches of rain.
On people: More than 8 million people reside in the Hurricane Warning zone in West and Central Florida, meaning they are subject to hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or greater
Nearly 7 million people reside along the coast between Fort Myers and Clearwater, including all of Tampa Bay area are also under a storm surge warning, indicating a life-threatening storm surge of 5 to 10 feet is possible
On storm surge: Even the low range of storm surge currently forecast for Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater would represent the highest water levels ever recorded. It could double their highest. 5 to 10 feet is the expected surge in Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The highest sea levels ever recorded reached around 4 feet high in Hurricane Elena in 1985 and the March 1993 “Storm of the Century.”
On rapid intensification: Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification has continued on Tuesday. Ian was a 45 mph tropical storm on Sunday afternoon, but is currently a 125 mph Category 3 major hurricane. Rapid intensification is considered an increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours, Ian has far exceeded that, increasing by at least 55 mph in a 24 hour period between Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon.
Some history: The last major hurricane to make landfall in the US was Hurricane Ida (Category 4) in 2021 in Louisiana. The last major hurricane to make landfall in Florida was Hurricane Michael in 2018 (Category 5).
If you are in the path of Hurricane Ian, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.
What to do as the storm approaches:
- Stay inside
- Protect windows and doors with permanent storm shutters or plywood
- Keep local radio, NOAA radio or TV stations on for new information
- Download the Red Cross emergency app (for iPhone, Android)
- Keep a hurricane lamp Make sure all pets have identification tags
- Store all lawn furniture, trash cans, toys and gardening tools inside to prevent them from getting blown away
- Find local emergency shelters
- Fill plastic bottles with drinking water
- Fill bathtubs with water
- Fill your car’s gas tank
- Unplug all small devices and turn off propane tanks
- Buy a fire extinguisher Have a to-go pack ready and learn evacuation routes in your area
What to have on hand as a storm approaches:
- First aid kit and instructions
- Fire extinguisher
- Extra batteries
- Sleeping bags and blankets
- Cooking and eating utensils
- Week-long supply of prescription medicines
- Paper plates, cups, and towels
- Non-perishable/canned foods
- Jumper cables
- Roadside emergency kit
- Cell phones and chargers
- Toilet paper
- Plastic bucket with tight lid
- Plastic garbage bags
- Household bleach
- Feminine supplies
- Wet wipes
- Rain gear
- Sturdy shoes
Read the checklist in full by downloading this PDF, which contains links with more details.
Lee County officials in southwest Florida are implementing a mandatory evacuation order for residents living in zone A and parts of zone B of the county, officials said Tuesday.
"The evacuation this morning is a mandatory evacuation order, and that is as mandatory as can be," Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said in a news conference Tuesday. "We will not be going house to house enforcing people to leave, but we are stressing the importance of people getting out of harm's way."
Zone A is generally surrounded by low-lying areas that tend to flood, Desjarlais said. Residents living in mobile and manufactured homes are also encouraged to leave, he added.
Government offices are closed Tuesday and won't reopen until Thursday, according to the county's website. All toll sites on Lee County are suspended "until further notice," the county added.
The county's school district and its offices, which serves nearly 100,000 students, are also closed Tuesday and Wednesday. School officials said they'd reevaluate when to reopen by 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
There are 10 pet-friendly emergency shelters opening throughout the county at 9 a.m. ET, Desjarlais said. Residents looking for shelter information, zone information, as well as Ian's whereabouts, can check the county's website and Facebook.
County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, also present at the news conference, stressed the uncertainty of the storm at this time.
"I just want to get a point across that we are going to feel this storm – how badly is still undetermined," Marceno said. "Understand and we stress the fact that once the winds hit a sustained 45 miles per hour, law enforcement, emergency personnel, are not going to respond. So, God forbid someone does need 911 and they dial, a law enforcement officer is not going to respond until it's safe to."
Lee County is roughly 132 miles west of West Palm Beach, Florida.