By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Authorities and residents in Florida were keeping a cautious eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it rumbled ominously through the Caribbean on Sunday, likely to become a major hurricane on its path toward the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm to lash large swaths of the state with heavy rains, high winds and rising seas.
Forecasters are still unsure of exactly where Ian could make landfall, with current models plotting it toward Florida’s west coast or panhandle regions, he said.
“We’re going to keep monitoring the track of this storm but it really is important to stress the degree of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday, cautioning that “even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there’s going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state.
The National Hurricane Center said the tropical storm was expected to strengthen into a hurricane late Sunday or early Monday and eventually become a major hurricane before reaching western Cuba.
Flash and urban flooding is possible in the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula through midweek and then heavy rainfall was possible for north Florida, the Florida panhandle and the southeast United States later this week. The agency advised Floridians to have hurricane plans in place and monitor updates of the storm’s evolving path.
President Joe Biden also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida due to the storm.
A hurricane warning was in effect Sunday for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.
Cuban state media said emergency authorities have met to plan for the storm’s arrival and prepare for evacuations, though none had been ordered as of Sunday. The track forecast by the National Hurricane Center shows a major storm striking the far-western part of the island early Tuesday, close to the country’s most famed tobacco fields.
John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center, said in an interview Sunday that it is not clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida. Residents should begin preparations, including gathering supplies for potential power outages, he said.