Ian strengthens into major Category 3 hurricane as it makes landfall in Cuba – NBC News

Hurricane Ian strengthened into a major Category 3 storm early Tuesday as it made landfall in western Cuba, U.S. officials said.

Landfall was just southwest of the town of La Coloma in the Pinar del Río province around 4:30 a.m. ET, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an early Tuesday update. The hurricane is now in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico moving north toward Florida at 10 mph, and is expected to approach the state’s west coast as an extremely dangerous major hurricane.

Ian is expected to make landfall in Venice on Florida’s Gulf Coast at 125 mph as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday, according to Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, who spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Follow along for NBC News’ live coverage of Hurricane Ian

Ian will slow down to a pace of 3 to 4 mph Thursday and Friday over or near Florida’s west coast, prolonging storm surge, wind and flash flooding impacts. Tornadoes over the Florida peninsula are also possible over the next three days.

Storm surge can also affect Florida’s east coast where a warning has been issued from Marineland to St. Marys River, along Georgia’s coast, according to the hurricane center.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency, saying Ian could bring 5 to 10 feet of storm surge.

“What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential,” he said at the news conference. “That storm surge can be life-threatening.”

DeSantis encouraged residents to heed evacuation orders in place from Pinellas County down to the Fort Meyers area by getting to higher ground. About 2.5 million residents are under some type of evacuation orders, he said.

Parts of the state may also be without power anywhere from three days to a week, Guthrie said.

Image: Hurricane Ian prep
Boarded-up windows in Indian Shores, 25 miles west of Tampa, had a message for Hurricane Ian on Monday.Ricardo Arduengo / AFP – Getty Images

Georgia and South Carolina may also see some impact from the storm.

A storm surge watch was issued from St. Marys River to south Santee River in South Carolina, and a tropical storm warning along the East Coast was extended north to Altamaha Sound in Georgia and south to Boca Raton, Florida.

The area along the East Coast, north of the Altamaha Sound to south Santee River, can also receive tropical storm weather, according to the hurricane center.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from Cuba’s Pinar del Río as authorities sent in emergency and medical personnel ahead of the storm’s arrival this week, The Associated Press reported.

Two hours east, in Havana, fishermen hauled out their boats, city workers unclogged storm drains, and residents expressed alarm at the prospect of flooding, according to the AP.

“I hope we escape this one, because it would be the end of us,” Abel Rodrigues, 54, told the news agency. “We already have so little.”

Earlier Monday, Ian passed by the nearby Cayman Islands with no major damage reported. Emergency officials issued an “all clear” notification at 3 p.m. local time, and Premier Wayne Panton said the British territory was “very fortunate to have been spared the worst of a potentially very serious storm.”

The latest on Hurricane Ian

  • Ian is expected to make landfall in Venice on Florida’s Gulf Coast at 125 mph as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday.
  • Ian will slow down to a pace of 3 to 4 mph Thursday and Friday over or near Florida’s west coast, prolonging storm surge, wind and flash flooding impacts.
  • Georgia and South Carolina may also see some impact from the storm, with storm surge watches and tropical storm warnings issued along the U.S. East Coast.
  • About 2.5 million residents are under some type of evacuation orders in Florida.
  • Parts of Florida may also be without power anywhere from three days to a week.

As the storm headed for Florida, oil companies evacuated workers from deep-water platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and airports in Tampa, Orlando and Pinellas County in Florida announced that they would close Tuesday and Wednesday. American Airlines announced travel waivers for people flying to or out of 20 airports in Florida and the Caribbean.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers said the team was temporarily moving its operations to Miami-Dade County.

Residents on Florida’s Gulf Coast stocked up on food and prepared with sandbags and plywood for their windows. Hundreds of thousands of people were under evacuation orders.

Image: Bob Copeland, Wilbur Villamarin, Fabian Villamarin
Bob Copeland helps fill free sandbags for Wilbur Villamarin, left, and his son Fabian on Monday at an Orange County park in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

“This storm is trending to slow down, which means it could potentially sit on top of us for 47 hours,” said Cathie Perkins, the director of Pinellas County Emergency Management, NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa reported.

“That’s a lot of rain, and it’s not going to be able to drain out quickly,” she said.

 20 total views,  1 views today