Hurricane Ian has hit Cuba in a major Category 3 storm that is forecast to grow even stronger before reaching Florida on Wednesday.

Ian landed on land southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Río province of western Cuba on Tuesday at around 4:30 AM, with a maximum continuous wind of 125 mph, according to National Hurricane Center. An estimated 50,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes prior to his arrival, while millions more in the nearby provinces of Isla de Juventud and Artemisa fled amid hurricane-force winds.

“I hope we get away from it because that would be our end,” said health worker Abel Rodrigues. “We already have so little.”

A slow storm is expected to hover over the island, hitting the west coast “by significant wind and storm effects” before moving towards Florida.

Ian is expected to grow stronger as he makes his way through the Gulf of Mexico, whose warm waters provide favorable conditions for a rapid intensification before landing again. Late Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane is predicted to become a major Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds.

“On the forecast path, Ian Center is expected to appear over the Southeast Gulf of Mexico within hours, pass west of the Florida Keys later today, and move towards Florida’s west coast in Hurricane Warning Area Wednesday and Wednesday evening.” NHC forecasters said.


The approach of the storm triggered a hurricane warning from Bonita Beach to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay. Observation of tropical storms also applied to the Middle Florida Keys and other parts of the east and west coasts of the state.

Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents faced mandatory evacuation orders as the National Hurricane Center extended hurricane warnings to cover Bonita Beach north across the Bay of Tampa to the Anclote River. Officials in Lee and Hillsborough counties have already taken this step, and residents of some low-lying regions known to have flooded have already been forced to flee their homes.

“Evacuating this morning is a mandatory evacuation order and is as mandatory as possible,” Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais told a news conference. “We are not going to go from house to house forcing people to leave, but we emphasize the importance of people avoiding danger.”

Desjarlais added that “people on barrier islands who choose not to go do so at their own risk.”

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Ian is expected to dump 12 to 16 inches of rainfall, with a maximum of up to 24 inches in Tampa and West Central Florida. Forecasts also warned that the tide could reach 10 feet if it peaked at high tide.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis compared Ian to Hurricane Charley, a storm that hit the state in 2004, in a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a completely different storm. Charley was much smaller, he was powerful, he belonged to Category 4. Most of the damage Charley caused was due to wind and wind blows. What we have here is a really historic storm surge and flood potential, ”he said. “So if you look at these places in Fort Myers, Charlotte County, Sarasota, the storm wave you see caused by this will overshadow what we saw.”

The governor declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties, and 26 Florida school districts were also closed in anticipation of the storm. Thousands of visitors to Disney World are also evacuated from hotels and campgrounds in Orlando, and parts of the theme park are already plagued by flooding.

Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom are currently still open, although officials said they were “monitoring” the storm.

President Biden declared a state of emergency the weekend before Ian’s arrival, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and help protect life and property

With News Wire services

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