, 2022-09-24 20:23:00,
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Tropical Storm Ian, the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to reach up to Category 4 hurricane strength before hitting Florida next week. If it does, it will be the first major hurricane to impact the state since 2018.
Ian was located about 255 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica, as of 6 p.m. Saturday and moving west at 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. “Significant strengthening is forecast during the next few days,” the center said.
The forecast shows Ian “as a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf when it is approaching the west coast of Florida,” after briefly passing over Cuba at or near major hurricane strength, the center said Friday. The entire Florida panhandle and nearly the entire western coast of the state could be at risk, according to the most recent forecast cone from the hurricane center.
After strengthening overnight, Ian – earlier known as Tropical Depression Nine – has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and is forecast to reach hurricane status within the next two days as it approaches the Cayman Islands by early Monday.
Ian is then expected to rapidly intensify and become a Category 3 hurricane before it reaches far western Cuba early Tuesday. Conditions are extremely favorable for strengthening and the forecast from the National Hurricane Center now brings Ian to a Category 4 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico.
“Since Ian is not expected to remain over Cuba long, little weakening is expected due to that land interaction,” the hurricane center explained.
Forecast models on Saturday afternoon vary on where Ian may make landfall on Florida’s coast. The European model shows landfall near Tampa on Thursday morning, while the American model shows landfall near Pensacola Friday morning. There also continues to be a considerable amount of uncertainty with the track during the middle of next week.
The official hurricane center track splits the difference between the models, showing landfall north of Tampa on Thursday morning.
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