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Ian strengthens into hurricane and Florida and Cuba prepare for possible flooding

Cuban authorities will evacuate residents of vulnerable areas in the western province of Pinar del Rio, while Florida’s governor has declared a state of emergency in the face of incoming downpours, gales and storm surges.

Tropical Storm Ian strengthened into a hurricane on Monday, as Florida braces for possible flooding this week.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced that the storm is expected to strengthen rapidly during the day and become a major hurricane as it approaches western Cuba, where it is expected to “produce significant wind and storm surge impacts.”

By early Monday morning, maximum winds are expected to be sustained from the storm and according to meteorology these had strengthened to near 75 miles per hour, and (120 kilometers per hour), with some higher gusts, according to the hurricane center.

[A major hurricane is forecast to make landfall in Florida between Tuesday and Wednesday. It will hit western Cuba first].

A hurricane watch was issued along Florida’s west coast from north of Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay as the storm heads toward the state, according to the NHC.

The center of Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands on Monday, and near or over western Cuba later Monday night and early Tuesday, the NHC said.

“Ian will then emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, and pass west of the Florida Keys late Tuesday, and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday,” it advised.

Earlier, the NHC had warned of the possibility of “significant flooding impacts” later this week in west-central Florida. Meanwhile, additional flash and urban flooding, as well as river flooding across the Florida peninsula and the Southeast “cannot be ruled out” by the end of this week.

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“Regardless of Ian’s exact path and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of this week, and residents of the state should make sure they have their hurricane plan in place,” he communicated.

In photos taken Sunday, residents of Tampa, Florida, could be seen filling sandbags to help prevent flooding ahead of the storm.

In Kissimmee, about an hour northeast of Tampa, a long line of shoppers could be seen waiting outside a store in a rush to stock up on supplies ahead of Ian’s arrival. Several people could be seen carrying several cases of water bottles out of the store.

“Storm surge and hurricane force winds are also expected to affect parts of western Cuba beginning Monday, and Ian is expected to reach or approach major hurricane strength as it approaches western Cuba.

Cuban authorities suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and announced they would begin evacuations on Monday in preparation for the storm. Cuban state media Granma reported that authorities plan to begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas early Monday in the far western province.

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