Hurricane Ian continues to be a dangerous storm churning in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on a path toward Florida as a Category 3 storm, but the very latest models show that Ian could strengthen to a Category 4 as it targets the Sunshine State.
On Tuesday, after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba around 4:30 a.m. local time, forecasters generally said that the storm could strengthen to a Category 4 after returning to the Gulf waters before becoming a Category 3 storm and making landfall on Florida’s west coast. But on Tuesday night, forecasters began to predict a possible intensification that would see Ian becoming a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds between 130 and 156 miles per hour, according to NBC News.
According to ABC News, a Category 4 storm “can cause severe damage to well-constructed homes, including damaging most of the roof and exterior walls” and in the event of such a storm, “most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.”
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 28, 2022
The storm is still expected to bring 12 to 18 inches of rain to the central and northeastern parts of Florida, and 6 to 8 inches of rain to the Florida Keys and South Florida through Thursday.
In an update Tuesday evening, from the National Hurricane Center, forecasters said the Category 3 storm was expected to continue gaining strength. Per NBC News, the hurricane situation was as follows:
Tropical storm conditions were occurring in the Keys, where sustained tropical-storm-force winds were recorded at Key West International Airport and Key West Naval Air Station, according to the center. A 52-mph gust was recorded at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, and a data buoy center near Sombrero Key reported sustained winds of 43 mph, the center said.
As of 8:00 p.m. ET, Ian was located 180 miles south-southwest of Punta Gorda, Florida, and 20 miles southwest of the Dry Tortugas. At that time, Ian had maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour and was moving toward Florida at only 10 miles per hour.