Tropical Storm Ian Forecasted to Reach Category 4 Hurricane as It Approaches Florida

by Craig Garrett
Palm trees blowing in a tropical storm - stock photo

Tropical Storm Ian, which developed over the Caribbean late Friday, is forecast to strengthen into a powerful hurricane in the coming days. Within the next 72 hours, the National Hurricane Center predicts that Ian will develop into a Category 4 storm. Although the exact path is uncertain, it is most likely to cross over Cuba. Then it will turn northward toward Florida by midweek, Axios reports. Fortunately, computer models show that there is little wind shear forecasted for later today. This could have prevented further intensification of the storm.

As of 5 p.m. ET, Tropical Storm Ian was located about 255 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica. It’s moving west at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds at 45 mph. A hurricane warning is in effect for Grand Cayman Island. Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch is in effect for Little Cayman Island. However, the previous tropical storm watch issued for Jamaica has been canceled. This is because the storm isn’t expected to reach the island according to NHC’s latest predictions. As of now, it appears that Ian will make landfall on Thursday afternoon somewhere along Florida’s western coast instead. The NHC said that the “uncertainty in the track forecast is higher than usual.” 

“Regardless of Ian’s exact track, 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 next week, and people in Florida should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, follow any advice given by local officials, and closely monitor updates to the forecast,” the 5 p.m. advisory stated.

Computer models offer conflicting data

Computer models disagree on the track and precise intensity beyond Monday, but this storm poses a significant threat to Florida. If a major hurricane strikes in the next few days, it would be particularly dangerous because of the decisions that leaders must make in order to successfully evacuate vulnerable areas, such as the Florida Keys.

NASA had to postpone its plan for a Tuesday Moon rocket launch from Cape Canaveral due to the approaching storm. It takes three days to bring the huge rocket into the Vehicle Assembly Building. Florida’s Governor has already declared a state of emergency in 24 counties that may be impacted by the weather.

The accuracy of forecasts for days four and five, on average, is about 150 and 200 miles, respectively, according to the Hurricane Center. The variations between computer models occur over the formation of a trough in the jet stream forecast to appear across the Central and Eastern United States early in the week. Late Tuesday into Wednesday and Thursday, according to the European model, the storm has grown stronger and was predicted to curve north-northeast across western Cuba. This is before making landfall near Miami.