Hurricane Ian it hit western Cuba on Tuesday morning with strong winds and torrential rains on its way to western Florida, where officials begged people to flee the coast from what could be a devastating Tampa storm surge and flooding.

Ian, a Category 3 the storm was sustaining a wind speed of 125mph, it was ready to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday Tuesday after crossing Cuba the tobacco-rich province of Pinar del Riowhere he landed around 4:30, National Hurricane Center He said. Life-threatening storm waves, flash floods and mudslides are possible there, forecasters say.

Ian then appears to be heading to West Florida, where rains and storm-sever tropical winds will kick off on Tuesday and the system is ready to be life-threatening storm wave – ocean water pushed ashore – and heavy rain from Wednesday to Thursday mornings as it first crawls along the coast and then heads inland.

The storm can land near or south of the Tampa Bay area late Wednesday or early Thursday as a hurricane of at least a category 3 – sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour – and officials warn: get off the coast now.

“Today will really be your last day to … actually move out of the storm warning area,” Michael Brennan, acting deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told CNN.

The storm poses numerous threats to Midwest Florida:

• Storm wave: The storm surge warning – meaning the tide can be life threatening – stretches from the north of Tampa to the southern tip of the Everglades peninsula – a coastline of nearly 7 million people.

The worst – 5 to 10 feet – is forecast for Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. If it does, it will crush the highest growth recorded in the area – about 4 feet since Hurricane Elena in 1985 and Hurricane Elena in March 1993. “The storm of the century“.

• Rain: By Friday in Tampa and Midwest Florida, they can be 12-24 inches, posing numerous flood risks. That’s two or more months of rain in this area as September average brings about 6 inches of rain there.

Harmful windsThe Hurricane Warning – meaning winds of at least 74 mph are expected – covers approximately 8 million people in parts of western and central Florida – including the area from the Anclote River north of Tampa to Bonita Beach south of Fort Myers.

“So you are really looking at a multi-day, multi-day event here on most of the western and central Florida peninsula,” said Brennan.

In Cuba, over a million people live in three provinces – Pinar del Rio, Isla de Juventud and Artemisa – that have experienced hurricane winds. The last major hurricane – Category 3 or higher – to hit Cuba before Ian was Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Florida evacuations are underway

The hurricane’s threatening approach to Florida sparked preparations statewide as officials announced school closings and flight cancellations, and the military began carrying ships and planes.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned of power cuts, as well as possible evacuations and fuel shortages, telling people to “prepare now.”

All across Florida’s west coast, officials urge residents to take refuge from danger rather than stay to protect their property. “This is nothing to fuss. If you can leave, just leave now, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said on Monday.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for parts of the counties in the hurricane warning area stretching from the north of Tampa to the Fort Myers area. It included Pinelles and Hillsborough counties within the Tampa area, Hernando, Sarasota and Charlotte counties; and parts of Lee County which include Fort Myers. Ambulance shelters were opened.

“When we issued a compulsory evacuation, which means that if you don’t and call for help, we won’t come because we don’t intend to endanger our people and put them in danger because you didn’t listen to what we told you to do,” he said. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

With tropical storms likely starting Tuesday night, officials are concerned about Ian’s illness storm wave. The Tampa Bay region is particularly vulnerable to storm waves and can experience catastrophic damage from flooding – even if the area is not directly hit by a hurricane.

Tampa Electric said it may need to actively turn off power at the south end of downtown early Wednesday to “avoid serious damage to underground equipment from a saltwater storm, which will significantly reduce storm recovery time.”

Tampa Bay International Airport will halt operations on Tuesday at 5 p.m., DeSantis said.

Across the state, residents waited in long lines on Monday to fill sandbags or collect bottled water in preparation for the storm.

Resident Khadijah Jones told CNN that on Monday she stood in line for three hours for free sandbags in Tampa, unsure if her home would be flooded.

“I’m just making the basics … securing loose materials in the yard, sandbags in low areas, and preparing items for a power outage,” she said.

As the storm approached, multiple closings and cancellations were announced.

HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg announced suspended services and moved patients.

Colleges and universities statewide – incl Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and? University of South Florida in Tampa – undertake preparatory activities, including campus evacuation or transition to online classes.

At K-12, Hillsborough County schools canceled classes because campuses became storm shelters. And surrounding counties including Citrus, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando also announced school closings this week.

Disney world announced some temporary resort closures Wednesday through Friday due to weather conditions. At least three cruise lines have also started redirecting passengers due to the hurricane.

Help arrives before going ashore

To ease traffic congestion for people leaving evacuation zones, the Florida Department of Transportation is likely to allow for emergency shoulder use, which will allow drivers to use the roadside at lower speeds, said Kevin Guthrie, Florida director of crisis management.

As residents are urged to leave town, officials set up people and equipment to react quickly when recovery begins.

Due to the likely frequent power cuts, Florida Power and Light announced that it has launched its emergency response plan, mobilizing 13,000 workers. The company will work to restore power “as long as it is safe,” the release said, including using smart grid technology to remotely restore power to customers when possible.

Out of state funds are also pouring in, Guthrie said.

The Florida National Guard has activated 5,000 Florida troops and 2,000 additional troops from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, DeSantis announced on Monday.

President Joe Biden on Saturday approved the disaster declaration for Ian.

“The president’s action empowers the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to alleviate the hardships and suffering caused by the crisis on the local population,” the White House said in a press release.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a public health emergency in the state of Florida – a move to give medical service providers and providers more flexibility to meet emergency health needs, his office said.

“We will do everything we can to help Florida officials respond to the health effects of Hurricane Ian,” Becerra said. “We work closely with state, local and tribal health authorities, as well as our federal partners, and are ready to provide additional health and medical support.”

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