Ian powers up to a Category 4 hurricane as it nears Florida

ST PETERSBURG: Storm Ian strengthens into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Florida and forecasters predict it will maintain winds of 220 km/h until landfall on Wednesday afternoon.
Wind and rain from the tropical storm hit the state’s densely populated Gulf Coast, with Naples to Sarasota at “the highest risk” of a devastating high tide.
US Air Force storm hunters confirmed Ian gained strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico after slamming Cuba, knocking down the country’s power grid and leaving the entire island without electricity.
The US National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm could push up to 12 feet of seawater into the shore, urging people to evacuate the danger area if they still can.
More than 2.5 million people have been subject to mandatory evacuation orders, but by law no one can be forced to flee.
Ian was centered about 100 km west-southwest of Naples at 6 a.m., swirling toward the coast at 17 km/h.
Florida residents rushed to their homes, storing valuables on the upper floors and fleeing.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Vinod Nair, who drove inland from the Tampa area on Tuesday with his wife, son, dog and two kittens looking for a hotel in the Orlando resort area. disaster. “We’re living in a high-risk area, so we thought it would be best to evacuate.”
The storm center predicts Ian will make landfall on Wednesday afternoon. The Miami-based center said winds exceeding tropical storm intensity 63 km/h reached Florida at 3 a.m., and hurricane-like winds were forecast before the eyepiece moved in. land.
Rainfall near the landing area can be up to 46 cm.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Sarasota, a coastal city of 57,000 people, was in the path of the storm. “This is a life-threatening storm surge.”
Ian’s forward movement slowed over the Gulf, allowing the storm to grow wider and stronger.
A hurricane warning has covered about 350 kilometers of the state.
Tampa and St.Petersburg were included, and were likely to be first directly impacted by a major hurricane since 1921.
Gil Gonzalez did not take advantage of any opportunities. He covered the windows of his home in Tampa with plywood and placed sandbags as a precaution against flooding. He and his wife packed their car with bottled water, flashlights, cell phone batteries and a stove before evacuating.
“All of our precious possessions, we kept them upstairs in a friend’s house,” Gonzalez said.
Airports in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Key West are closed. Disney World and Sea World theme parks in Orlando both closed before the storm.
A couple from England vacationing in Tampa find themselves facing the storm at a shelter.
Glyn and Christine Williams of London were told to leave their hotel near the beach when an evacuation order was issued. Because the airport is closed, they cannot have any flights home.
“Unfortunately, all the hotels are either full or closed, so it looks like we’ll be in one of the shelters,” Christine Williams said.
Her husband insists everything will be fine. “You know, you have to go with the flow,” says Glyn Williams.
“So we’re pretty happy doing what we’re doing.”
The exact location of landfall remains uncertain, but with Tropical Storm Ian’s strong winds extending 280 kilometers from its center, damage is expected over a large swath of Florida. .
Flash flooding is possible across the state, and parts of its east coast face a potential storm surge threat as Ian’s swathes approach the Atlantic. Warnings are also issued for isolated tornadoes.
Florida Power and Light warned those on Ian’s path to face days without power.
As a precaution, hundreds of residents were evacuated from several nursing homes in the Tampa area, where hospitals are also moving some patients.
Parts of Georgia and South Carolina could also experience flooding and some coastal areas on Saturday. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency, dispatching 500 National Guard soldiers to be ready to respond when necessary.
Before turning towards Florida, Ian hit the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio with sustained winds of 205 km/h and wreaked havoc in the island nation’s world-famous tobacco belt.
No deaths have been reported.
Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in the city of Pinar del Rio, posting pictures of collapsed ceilings, scattered debris and fallen trees.
Some people left the flooded area on foot, taking their children, while buses tried to evacuate others through flooded streets. Others chose to stay in their damaged homes.
“It was horrible,” said Yusimi Palaciosa resident of Pinar del Rio inside her damaged house.
“But here we are alive, and I only ask the Cuban revolution to help me with the roof and the mattress.”

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