April 23, 2024

Tropical Storm Ian, which formed late Friday over the central Caribbean Sea, is expected to intensify rapidly on Sunday and could threaten Florida as a major hurricane this week after moving over or near western Cuba, forecasters said.

Forecasters said that Ian was expected to become a hurricane by late Sunday and a major hurricane by late Monday or early Tuesday. Forecasters said the Florida Keys could get two to four inches of rain, with some areas getting up to 6 inches through Tuesday evening.

On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida declared a state of emergency for all of Florida’s 67 counties ahead of the storm. Under the order, money would be freed up for protective measures and the National Guard would be activated, Mr. DeSantis said.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee emphasized the uncertainty of the storm’s long-term track, including size and impacts. But the Weather Service said that residents along Florida’s west coast and the Panhandle should be ready for the “risk of storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rain.”

The National Hurricane Center said residents should prepare hurricane supplies by sunset on Monday. The storm could strike as a Category 3 hurricane or higher, it said.

The storm’s center is expected to pass southwest of Jamaica on Sunday, with maximum winds near 50 miles per hour, the Hurricane Center said.

Ian is then expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands early Monday before moving near or over western Cuba late on Monday, forecasters said.

Ian is expected to generate two to four inches of rain in parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, three to six inches in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and four to eight inches in western Cuba, with up to 12 inches possible, the center said.

This rainfall could lead to flash flooding and mudslides in higher terrain areas, particularly in Jamaica and Cuba, forecasters said. Swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

As of Sunday morning, a hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman, and a tropical storm watch was in effect for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas.

This hurricane season is Nicole Sigismondi’s first time preparing for it alone with her two children, ages 7 and 15; her fiancée died almost a year ago. When she went to buy water on Friday night, it was sold out.

“There was nothing left at Walmart,” she said. “That was a little unsettling.”

During Hurricane Irma in 2017, parts of her house flooded and was without power for three weeks, she said. She and her family had to walk about a mile through water before someone could pick them up in a car, which a tree then fell on.

Hurricane paths can often change suddenly, which was the case five years ago when Irma moved toward her area in Pasco County, Fla., north of Tampa.

“The hope is that you get lucky but you hope it doesn’t hit anybody else,” Ms. Sigismondi said. “You don’t wish bad on them.”

In the Tampa area, Cassandra Sumwun, 49, spent her Saturday clearing the floor of her garage to prepare for flooding and picking up yard debris in case of strong winds at her 5-acre home in the woods, with the help of her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Ms. Sumwun has lived in Florida her whole life and has so far avoided being in harm’s way during hurricanes, she said, but she always prepares for them. She has filled tanks with water, but still has to board up her sliding glass doors and fill gas cans for a generator.

“I think far too many people take these storms lightly,” she said.

Ian is the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 39 m.p.h.

Forecasters had tracked other storms as well, including Fiona, which formed on Sept. 15, and strengthened into a major hurricane before being downgraded late Friday to a post-tropical cyclone. It made landfall in eastern Canada early Saturday, after days of lashing Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before Sept. 1 and none during August, the first time that had happened since 1997. Storm activity picked up in early September with Danielle and Earl, which formed within a day of each other.

In early August, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an updated forecast for the rest of the season, which still called for an above-normal level of activity. In it, they predicted that the season — which runs through Nov. 30 — could see 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 74 m.p.h.

Three to five of those could strengthen into what NOAA calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 m.p.h.

Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.

The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms, though the overall number of storms could drop because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.

Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of increased water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

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