The hurricane made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region.
Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida on Wednesday.
Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said “significant wind and storm surge impacts” were occurring Tuesday morning in western Cuba. Ian had sustained top winds of 125 mph (205 kmh) as it moved over the city of Pinar del Rio. As much as 14 feet (4.3 meters) of storm surge was predicted along Cuba’s coast.
Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) before making landfall again. Tropical storm-force winds were expected in Florida late Tuesday, reaching hurricane force Wednesday morning.
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The hurricane center said there’s a 100 percent chance of damaging tropical storm force winds and water along Florida’s west coast, and expanded its hurricane warning, from Bonita Beach north through Tampa Bay to the Anclote River.
Tampa and St. Petersburg could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.