Florida is on standby as Hurricane Ian escalates and stops on the gulf coast.

The storm, which turned into a hurricane in early Monday morning, is now about 90 miles southwest of Grand Cayman and 275 miles southeast of Cuba’s western tip with winds up to 75 mph, according to Monday’s National Hurricane Center update 8 am.

Ian is expected to move north-west later on Monday and pass near or west of the Cayman Islands, then pick up speed on Tuesday, heading north beyond western Cuba and into the southeast Gulf of Mexico beyond the Florida Keys on Tuesday. .

The storm will approach Florida’s west coast as a major hurricane on Wednesday, according to forecasters.

The Tampa Bay area is already gearing up for the strike, with all Hillsborough schools closed by Thursday and Pinellas County schools closing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Pasco County Schools will also close on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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“I would also tell other Florida residents that even though you might not necessarily be on track to the storm, there will be fairly broad influence across the state,” Governor Ron DeSantis told a news conference on Sunday.

Ian is expected to bring heavy rains, flash floods and mudslides to Jamaica and Cuba, as well as life-threatening storm waves and hurricane winds in parts of western Cuba as early as Monday night, according to the NHC.

Up to 8 inches of rain can fall in the Cayman Islands and up to 16 inches in western Cuba. Keys can see 4 to 6 inches, and up to 15 inches of rain can drown Midwest Florida.

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By the weekend, it will also start raining in the South and Central Atlantic.

Tornadoes are possible all over the Florida Keys and southern and central Florida.

Hurricane Warning is valid for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, with a tropical storm warning in the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque and Matanzas, in the Lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge west to Key West and Dry Tortugas. The hurricane watch was delivered from Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay.

According to current forecasts, Ian would be the first major hurricane to hit Florida since 2018 when Michael landed on the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm.

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