Hurricane Ian approaches Florida after crashing Cuba; high alert declared

Hurricane Ian is likely to hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane. More than 2.5 million residents have been advised to evacuate the state

  • Hurricane Ian is said to be one of the most powerful hurricane in the state
  • The Hurricane brought gusty winds and heavy rains to Cuba as it makes its way toward Florida
  • International Space Station has released pictures of Hurricane Ian over Cuba from space station

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Hurricane Ian approaches Florida after crashing Cuba; high alert declared

New Delhi: Residents of Florida's Gulf Coast boarded up their homes, packed their belongings, and fled to higher ground on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian approached, threatening a fatal storm surge and more than a foot of rain in some parts. After crashing into Cuba earlier in the day, Ian churned across the southeastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, heading for Florida. With the massive storm on course to make landfall as a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane somewhere along Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday evening (local time), more than 2.5 million Floridians were under evacuation orders or advisories.

According to Sinar Daily, Hurricane Ian earlier made landfall in Cuba's westernmost province of Pinar del Rio in the early hours of Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and gusty winds as it makes its way toward US Florida Keys.

International Space Station issued a space view of Hurricane Ian on Tuesday, as the storm was just south of Cuba gaining strength and heading toward Florida.

A Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale carries maximum sustained winds of up to 129 miles per hour (208 km per hour). The latest 8 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) hurricane advisory put Ian's top winds at 120 mph (195 km per hour).

Ian was most likely to come ashore south of Tampa near Sarasota, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. That region - home to miles of sandy beaches, scores of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks - is a favourite with retirees and vacationers alike.

While predictions remained imprecise for where the storm would come ashore, "the impacts are going to be far, far broader than just where the eye of the storm happens to make landfall," Governor Ron DeSantis said. DeSantis warned of the potential for devastating Hurricane Harvey-like flooding that struck the Houston area in 2017, the result of a slow-moving storm piling up high water.

Parts of central Florida could see as much as 2 feet (0.6 meter) of rain from Ian, according to the National Weather Service. The NHC also issued extensive storm surge warnings for about half of western Florida's shoreline, with predictions of life-threatening coastal flooding up to 12 feet from wind-driven high surf.

Florida's director of emergency management, Kevin Guthrie, urged residents in evacuation zones to move to safety. To ease traffic congestion, authorities suspended toll collections along major highways in central Florida, the Tampa Bay area and the interstate stretch across the Everglades known as Alligator Alley.

If Ian strikes Tampa, it would be the first hurricane to make landfall in the area since the Tarpon Springs storm in 1921. It also may prove one of the costliest as the latest simulations projected storm-related damages ranging from $38 billion to more than $60 billion, Enki Research said on Tuesday.

Closings, Power Cuts in the state

Nearly 60 Florida school districts were either closed Tuesday or planned to be closed by Wednesday, DeSantis said. Many of those schools were designated as shelters for the storm and its aftermath. Commercial airlines cancelled more than 2,000 U.S. flights due to the storm.

The St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport - located on a vulnerable peninsula east of Tampa Bay - ceased operations at midday, and the Tampa International Airport shut down a few hours later.

Tampa Electric warned customers to be prepared for "extended outages." The company will institute a "targeted interruption" of service to a part of downtown Tampa on the western edge of the city. That area has already been evacuated. DeSantis said nearly 100 evacuation shelters had opened statewide.

(With Reuters Inputs)

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