Ian puts Gulf Coast of Florida on alert

Ian has intensified quickly from Tropical Depression Nine to Tropical Storm Ian. TS Ian is expected to intensify much more as it turns north and connects with the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A gradual turn to the northwest is expected later today as the cyclone passes well southwest of Jamaica, followed by a north-northwestward motion that brings the center of Ian west of the Cayman Islands on Monday and near or over western Cuba by early Tuesday.

Ian is expected to produce heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and possible mudslides in areas of higher terrain, particularly over Jamaica and Cuba. Flash and urban flooding is possible across the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula through mid-week. Additional flooding on rivers across northern Florida and parts of the southeast U.S. cannot be ruled out later this week.

The atmospheric and oceanic conditions over the northwestern Caribbean Sea appear very conducive for significant strengthening. So once Ian becomes more organized, the high oceanic heat content and low vertical shear conditions appear likely to support rapid intensification. Life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds are expected in portions of western Cuba beginning late Monday, where a hurricane warning is now in effect.

Ian is expected to be a major hurricane in the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the middle of the week, but uncertainty in the long-term track and intensity forecasts is higher than usual. Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of the week. Residents in Florida should ensure they have their hurricane plans in place, follow any advice given by local officials and closely monitor updates to the forecast.

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