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Hurricane Ian, now a fierce Cat 3, track shifts south as rains sweep Florida

Alex Harris and Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — Hurricane Ian’s project path shifted slightly Tuesday, on a track that would push the powerful storm’s to an earlier potential landfall south of the Tampa Bay area — a small but significant change for a Gulf Coast vulnerable to storm surge.

If the track holds — and forecasts stress that it may still change — it could reduce the flooding threat to Tampa Bay but raise it for coastal communities to the south like Sarasota and Cape Coral. Two days out from landfall, Florida was already feeling Ian’s first gusty, rainy bands.

In its 11 a.m. Tuesday forecast, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Ian is expected to bring historic levels of storm surge to the Sarasota area. That area now faces higher predicted storm surge levels than Tampa Bay — potentially up to 12 feet above dry land. That’s in addition to up to 24 inches of rain for the central West Florida region.

The latest forecast also bumped up landfall to Tuesday evening, bringing a tropical storm warning to all of southeast Florida, including coastal Miami-Dade and Broward. South Florida was already seeing street flooding Tuesday morning, and officials urged residents of the Keys to take shelter as tornado warnings popped up.

Florida’s entire west coast could see devastating storm surge and intense rain for several days as the storm slows to a crawl along the coast.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been called for about half a million people on Florida’s west coast, schools have closed in 16 counties and all of Florida remains under a federally declared state of emergency.

 

Jamie Rhome, acting director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a Tuesday morning broadcast that Floridians are “starting to run out of time” to prepare for Ian’s arrival.

“If you’re ordered to go you really should do so,” he said. “It’s really important that people start taking this seriously.”

As of the NHC’s 11 a.m. update, Hurricane Ian was about 305 miles south-southwest of Sarasota and about 125 miles south-southwest of the Dry Tortugas. It was still a Category 3 storm with 115 mph maximum sustained winds and a wind field that stretched 140 miles from its center, a larger wind field than earlier Tuesday. It was heading north at 10 mph, a slowdown from earlier.

Ian’s center made landfall just southwest of La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio Province of Cuba as a Cat 3 with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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