WEATHER ALERT

Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida braces for winds, floods

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HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday, knocking out power to the entire country and leaving 11 million people without electricity, before churning on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2022 (253 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday, knocking out power to the entire country and leaving 11 million people without electricity, before churning on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm.

Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kmh).

Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130 mph (209 kph) approaching the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

Tropical storm-force winds were expected across the southern peninsula late Tuesday, reaching hurricane-force Wednesday — when the eye was predicted to make landfall. With tropical storm-force winds extending 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Ian’s center, damage was expected across a wide area of Florida.

It was not yet clear precisely where Ian would crash ashore. Its exact track could determine how severe the storm surge is for Tampa Bay, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Landfall south of the bay could make the impact “much less bad,” McNoldy said.

Gil Gonzalez boarded up his windows Tuesday and had sandbags ready to protect his Tampa home. He and his wife had stocked up on bottled water and packed flashlights, battery packs for their cellphones and a camp stove before evacuating.

“All the prized possessions, we’ve put them upstairs in a friend’s house and nearby, and we’ve got the car loaded,” Gonzalez said on his way out.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people to prepare for extended power outages, and to get out of the storm’s potential path.

Waves kick up under a dark sky along the shore of Batabano, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Waves kick up under a dark sky along the shore of Batabano, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

“It is a big storm, it is going to kick up a lot of water as it comes in,” DeSantis told a news conference in Sarasota, a coastal city of 57,000 that could be hit. “And you’re going to end up with really significant storm surge and you’re going to end up with really significant flood events. And this is the kind of storm surge that is life threatening.”

He said about 30,000 utility workers have already been positioned around the state but it might take days before they can safely reach some of the downed power lines.

“This thing’s the real deal,” DeSantis said. “It is a major, major storm.”

DeSantis said nearly 100 shelters had been opened by Tuesday afternoon, with more expected. He said most buildings in Florida are strong enough to withstand wind, but the 2.5 million people who have been told to evacuate face the greatest danger from flooding.

Hundreds of residents were being evacuated from several nursing homes in the Tampa area, where hospitals were also moving some patients. Airports in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Key West closed. Busch Gardens in Tampa closed ahead of the storm, while several Orlando-area theme parks, including Disney World and Sea World, planned to close Wednesday and Thursday.

This GOES-East GeCcolor satellite image taken at 9:56 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Ian passing over western Cuba. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore Wednesday. (NOAA via AP )
This GOES-East GeCcolor satellite image taken at 9:56 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Ian passing over western Cuba. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore Wednesday. (NOAA via AP )

NASA rolled its moon rocket from the launch pad to its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the test flight.

Ian’s forward movement was expected to slow over the Gulf, enabling the hurricane to grow wider and stronger. The hurricane warning expanded Tuesday to cover roughly 220 miles (350 kilometers) of Florida’s west coast. The area includes Fort Myers as well as Tampa and St. Petersburg, which could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

Forecasters said the storm surge could reach 12 feet (3.6 meters) if it peaks at high tide. Rainfall near the area of landfall could top 18 inches (46 centimeters). They also reported a threat of isolated tornados being kicked up by the storm’s approach across Florida.

“It’s a monster and then there’s the confusion of the path,” said Renee Correa, who headed inland to Orlando from the Tampa area with her daughter and Chihuahua. “Tampa has been lucky for 100 years, but it’s a little scary now.”

Kelly Johnson was preparing to hunker down at her home two blocks from the beach in Dunedin, west of Tampa. She said she would escape to the second floor if sea water surges inland, and had a generator if power goes out.

Waves crash against a seawall as Hurricane Ian passes through George Town, Grand Cayman island, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Kevin Morales)
Waves crash against a seawall as Hurricane Ian passes through George Town, Grand Cayman island, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Kevin Morales)

“I’m a Floridian, and we know how to deal with hurricanes,” Johnson said. “This is part of living in paradise — knowing that once in a while these storms come at you.”

Forecasters warned the hurricane will be felt across a large area as it plows across Florida with an anticipated turn northward. Flash floods were possible across the whole state, and portions of Florida’s east coast faced a potential storm surge threat as Ian’s bands approach the Atlantic Ocean. Parts of Georgia and South Carolina also could see flooding rains into the weekend.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp pre-emptively declared a state of emergency Tuesday, ordering 500 National Guard troops on standby to respond as needed.

As the storm’s center moved into the Gulf, scenes of destruction emerged in Cuba’s world-famous tobacco belt. The owner of the premier Finca Robaina cigar producer posted photos on social media of wood-and-thatch roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in rubble and wagons overturned.

“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” wrote Hirochi Robaina, grandson of the operation’s founder.

In this aerial image, the city of Tampa, Fla., is seen Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba on a track to hit Florida
In this aerial image, the city of Tampa, Fla., is seen Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba on a track to hit Florida's west coast as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. It's been more than a century since a major storm like Ian has struck the Tampa Bay area, which blossomed from a few hundred thousand people in 1921 to more than 3 million today. (DroneBase via AP)

Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in Pinar del Rio city, tweeting photos of collapsed ceilings and toppled trees. No deaths were reported.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said his administration was sending hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency employees to Florida and sought to assure mayors in the storm’s path that Washington will meet their needs. He urged residents to heed local officials’ orders.

“Your safety is more important than anything,” he said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden spoke later Tuesday evening with DeSantis on federal steps to help Florida prepare for the storm and both committed to close coordination.

___

Wind blows a palm tree at the Antonio Maceo Monument along the malecon sea wall during the passing of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, early Thursday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
Wind blows a palm tree at the Antonio Maceo Monument along the malecon sea wall during the passing of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, early Thursday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press contributors include Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida, Freida Frisaro in Miami, Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida, Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, Seung Min Kim and Seth Borenstein in Washington and Bobby Caina Calvan and Julie Walker in New York.

Residents of the El Fanguito neighborhood move their belongings to a safe place as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Residents of the El Fanguito neighborhood move their belongings to a safe place as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Workers from Specialized Performance Delivered 24:7 board up the windows on the historical Henry B. Plant Hall on the campus of the University of Tampa ahead of Hurricane Ian Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere on Florida
Workers from Specialized Performance Delivered 24:7 board up the windows on the historical Henry B. Plant Hall on the campus of the University of Tampa ahead of Hurricane Ian Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere on Florida's west coast. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Residents and city workers fill sandbags at West Park in downtown Clermont, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in preparation for Hurricane Ian. (Rich Pope/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Residents and city workers fill sandbags at West Park in downtown Clermont, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in preparation for Hurricane Ian. (Rich Pope/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Canceled flights are shown on a video board at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of a planned landfall by Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida
Canceled flights are shown on a video board at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of a planned landfall by Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida's west coast. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
In this aerial image, the city of Tampa, Fla., is seen Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba on a track to hit Florida
In this aerial image, the city of Tampa, Fla., is seen Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba on a track to hit Florida's west coast as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday. It's been more than a century since a major storm like Ian has struck the Tampa Bay area, which blossomed from a few hundred thousand people in 1921 to more than 3 million today. (DroneBase via AP)
A man leans over next to an oveturned box filled with a fishing line, after Hurricane Ian
A man leans over next to an oveturned box filled with a fishing line, after Hurricane Ian's storm surge flooded the area in Playa Cajio, Artemisa, Cuba, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
Fallen utility poles and fallen branches line a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Fallen utility poles and fallen branches line a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Traffic builds along Interstate 4 in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, as Hurricane Ian approaches. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Traffic builds along Interstate 4 in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, as Hurricane Ian approaches. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)
FILE - Lisa Bromfield and Mike Sernett work to place a sheet of plywood on the front windows of a store in downtown Gulfport in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 26, 2022, in South Pasadena, Fla. Hurricane Ian is quickly gaining monstrous strength as it moves over oceans partly heated up by climate change. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
FILE - Lisa Bromfield and Mike Sernett work to place a sheet of plywood on the front windows of a store in downtown Gulfport in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 26, 2022, in South Pasadena, Fla. Hurricane Ian is quickly gaining monstrous strength as it moves over oceans partly heated up by climate change. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)
A man recovers pieces of roofing smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man recovers pieces of roofing smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
City employees load sandbags into people
City employees load sandbags into people's cars as they pull up to a station at Northwest Park, in preparation for Hurricane Ian, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Fallen electricity lines, metal and tree branches litter a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Fallen electricity lines, metal and tree branches litter a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Southwest Airline passengers check into a ticket counter near a sign that shows canceled flights at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida
Southwest Airline passengers check into a ticket counter near a sign that shows canceled flights at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida's west coast. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
A classic American car drives past utility poles tilted by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A classic American car drives past utility poles tilted by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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