CUBA - Tropical Storm Ian is tracking northwest at 12 mph and is 160 miles from the Cayman Islands. It is forecast to bring heavy rain, flooding, and storm surge to the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. The storm will rapidly intensify overnight as it crosses the warm waters of the Caribbean. It has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.
Ian's track will determine the next steps of its life. If the hurricane continues to move westward over the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to strengthen and reach a Category 4 hurricane status by Wednesday night. Eventually, it will head westward over the west coast of Florida, threatening coastal communities and threatening the entire Caribbean.
Cuba has been suffering a devastating economic crisis, and the storm is hitting at a critical time. Before the storm hit, hours-long blackouts had become a daily occurrence. Food shortages are also expected to complicate the recovery effort. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center has warned of a life-threatening storm surge and possible flash floods and mudslides along the Cuban coastline.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba Tuesday as a Category 3 hurricane. It is forecast to strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. Cuban officials evacuated thousands of residents and set up 55 emergency shelters. The country's tobacco-growing region took steps to protect its crops. As the hurricane approaches the Gulf coast, it is expected to continue to intensify. It is forecast to approach Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday night as a major hurricane.
Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay area were put under a hurricane watch Monday night, and a storm surge warning was issued for the Tampa Bay area. Gov. Ron DeSantis has already declared a state of emergency and asked people to stock up on supplies.