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Florida battens down as Hurricane Ian churns northward

Residents across the state emptied store shelves of water and household items, as schools and colleges in the Tampa area and northwest Florida canceled classes through at least Thursday. The approaching storm also forced NASA to roll its giant Artemis 1 moon rocket off its Cape Canaveral lauchpad after postponing the mission for a third time.

Cubans prepare for Tropical Storm Ian in Havana
A fisherman prepares to move his boat from a canal ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Ian in Havana, Cuba, Mondy, Sept. 26, 2022.
Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters
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TAMPA — Florida residents scrambled to set up sandbags and stockpile emergency supplies on Monday, Sept. 26, as the state braced for Hurricane Ian, which was expected to bring damaging winds, torrential rains and a powerful storm surge later in the week.

Residents across the state emptied store shelves of water and household items, as schools and colleges in the Tampa area and northwest Florida canceled classes through at least Thursday. The approaching storm also forced NASA to roll its giant Artemis 1 moon rocket off its Cape Canaveral lauchpad after postponing the mission for a third time.

The storm, currently a Category 1 hurricane, is expected to make landfall in Cuba on Monday evening.

Jose Lugo, who lives in Florida's Orange County in the central part of the state, told CNN affiliate WFTV 9 that he made several trips over the weekend to fill up sandbags at a local park for family members. "It’s better to be prepared than sorry later," he said.

Lugo was one of many Florida residents preparing for flooding from torrential rains could submerge streets and homes. Hurricane-force could damage or destroy homes and businesses and trigger power outages in the coming days, forecasters warn.

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Signs of the impending storm were seen throughout the state of 21 million people. In Titusville, a city of 43,000 on the Atlantic Coast, crews used chainsaws to trim palm trees.

In a grocery store in St. Petersburg, across the state on the Gulf Coast, only empty cardboard boxes remained where the store normally stocks distilled water. But toilet paper, snacks and canned soup were still available.

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"This is a really big storm," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a morning news conference, noting that the storm could potentially envelope both coasts of the state.

"Remain calm. There's no need to panic," he said, adding that residents should be prepared for potential evacuations.

The governor mobilized 5,000 members of the National Guard while an additional 2,000 are coming from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina with other nearby states having troops on standby.

DeSantis also warned residents that there will be major power outages from the storm as winds were expected to knock down trees and utility poles.

Storm intensifying

The intensifying storm was about 100 miles southwest of Grand Cayman on Monday morning, churning northwest in the Caribbean Sea at 13 miles an hour. Currently with sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, it was on course to bisect Cuba on Tuesday on its way to Florida, the U.S. National Weather Service said.

Ian should intensify once it enters the Gulf of Mexico, mushrooming into a Category 3 storm, but it could weaken again to Category 1, with winds of 90 mph, while parked off Tampa on Florida's Gulf Coast on Thursday, according to the NHC.

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From there, Ian could either make landfall north of Tampa Bay early on Friday or turn northwest toward Florida's Panhandle.

Between 6 to 12 inches of rain will inundate both Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts on Thursday, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Ian follows Hurricane Fiona, a powerful Category 4 storm that carved a path of destruction last week through Puerto Rico, leaving most of the U.S. territory without power and potable water. Fiona then barreled through the Turks and Caicos Islands, skirted Bermuda and slammed into Atlantic Canada, where critical infrastructure might take months to repair.

Related Topics: SEVERE WEATHER
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