After devastating Cuba on Tuesday, Hurricane Ian—previously identified as a strong Category 3 storm—has strengthened ahead of making contact with Florida on Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center reported online around 5 a.m. EST that Ian has now intensified into a “dangerous” Category 4 storm.
Per the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian is now expected to cause life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds, and major flooding throughout the FL peninsula.
According to The Weather Channel, Ian will slam into the Sunshine State making landfall between Sarasota and Fort Meyers. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, the lethal hurricane boasted maximum sustained wind speeds of 155 miles per hour.
Already, significant rainfall has begun to soak various regions of the FL peninsula and the Florida Keys overall. Sanibel Island recently saw wind gusts reaching 55 miles per hour while a buoy near the eye of Hurricane Ian captured a gust at 94 miles per hour.
Forecasters predict the massive storm could set and break multiple U.S. records.
On Tuesday, Ian sent wind gusts toward Key West and resulted in the third-highest storm surge in over 100 years. Additionally, while Ian remains an already-devastating Cat 4 hurricane, the weather station reports it could strengthen to a very rare Cat 5 before making landfall Wednesday afternoon.
Forecasters Predict Hurricane Ian Could Trigger Tornadoes Across the Southeast
As if rocketing windspeeds combined with historic storm surges and devastating rainfall weren’t enough, forecasters have predicted that Hurricane Ian could possibly spur multiple tornadoes across the Southeast as it ravages FL on Wednesday.
One state expected to see some of the effects of Hurricane Ian is South Carolina. Forecasters are currently expecting Hurricane Ian to make its way toward SC later this week. And while residents are already preparing for strong, damaging winds, it’s very possible southerners in the state could also see tornadoes.
Though Ian hasn’t made landfall in FL just yet, South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) has already advised both local and state agencies to be ready to jump into action if and when needed. SCEMD stated, “People in potentially vulnerable areas should review their plans and consider their actions they will need to take if the storm threatens the state.”
SCEMD Director Kim Stenson further warned South Carolinians about what the storm’s true capability is depending on where it lands.
“Much of what South Carolina experiences will depend on where and when Hurricane Ian does make landfall. While we are not expecting the full force of a hurricane-strength storm, everyone in South Carolina, from the Upstate to the Midlands, the Pee Dee, and the Low Country should be prepared to take personal safety precautions if advised to do so by your local emergency managers.”