Hurricane Ian tracker: Updates show path toward Florida, North Carolina | Storm upgraded to category 3 | NOAA

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RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — The latest projected path for Hurricane Ian shows it moving further inland before hitting North Carolina on Saturday.

Tuesday at As of 11 p.m., Ian remained a Category 3 storm, but was still expected to strengthen to a Category 4 before making landfall on Florida’s west coast.

Into Wednesday, the storm is expected to turn slightly northeast and subside.

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Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane on Tuesday, knocking out power to the entire country and leaving 11 million people without electricity before barreling into a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters, amid expectations that it would strengthen to a catastrophic category 4 storm.

Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people and took steps to protect crops in the country’s main tobacco-growing region. The US National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” as the hurricane hit with sustained high winds of 125 mph.

Ian was expected to grow even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico and reach peak winds of 130 mph approaching Florida’s southwest coast, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

Tropical storm force winds were expected across the southern peninsula late Tuesday and reached hurricane strength Wednesday – when the eye was forecast to make landfall. With tropical storm force winds extending 140 miles from Ian’s center, damage was expected across a wide swath of Florida.

It was not yet clear exactly where Ian would crash land. Its exact track could determine how severe the storm surge is for Tampa Bay, said hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy of the University of Miami. Landfall south of the bay could make the impact “much less severe,” McNoldy said.

On Saturday, the storm – after weakening to a post-tropical event – will continue through South Carolina and into North Carolina west of Charlotte.

What will Ian do about North Carolina?

The details of Ian’s forecast for North Carolina are becoming clearer, but may still fluctuate depending on the final path the storm takes.

However, the timeline for when the storm will arrive in North Carolina has remained fairly stable.

Tropical storm force winds may arrive in the southern part of the state Thursday night into Friday morning. With the bulk of the rain and storms occurring Friday and Saturday.

Winds greater than 30 mph are likely to continue Saturday morning,

Shifts in Ian’s track can change the weather forecast for your neighborhood; what happens where you live depends a lot on where Ian ends up traveling.

But overall, the storm is expected to dump between 2-4 inches of rain across central North Carolina.

Preparations underway in North Carolina

Officials in Raleigh and Durham are already planning for impacts from Hurricane Ian. Officials in Raleigh provide flood-prone areas is being investigated to deal with any heavy downpours. Meanwhile in Durham city leaders are meeting with Duke Energy to talk about their hurricane preparations.

Big Weather’s Hurricane Emergency Kit

Here’s how Florida is preparing & a look back at what Ian has already damaged

Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing stopping it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before hitting Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore on Wednesday.

Ian went ashore 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 US National Hurricane Center said “significant wind and storm surge impacts” occurred Tuesday morning in western Cuba. Ian’s peak sustained winds were 125 mph (205 km/h) and storm surges as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters) were predicted along the coast of Cuba.

Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching peak winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) as it nears Florida’s southwest coast. Tropical storm force was expected over the southern peninsula late Tuesday, reaching hurricane strength Wednesday morning.

“Right now we’re focusing on the west-central Florida area as the main area of ​​impact,” hurricane specialist Andy Latto told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

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With tropical storm-force winds extending 185 miles (185 kilometers) from Ian’s center, damage was expected across a wide swath of Florida wherever Ian makes landfall. The hurricane center extended its storm surge warning to the peninsula’s Atlantic coast and extended its tropical storm warning from Boca Raton to Brunswick, Georgia — a distance of about 375 miles (603 kilometers).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said an estimated 2.5 million people were under evacuation orders. He urged people to prepare for power outages and get out of the way.

“When you have five to 10 feet of storm surge, it’s not something you want to be a part of,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “And Mother Nature is a very formidable opponent.”

The hurricane center extended its hurricane warning to include Bonita Beach north through Tampa Bay to the Anclote River. Fort Myers is in the hurricane zone, and Tampa and St. Petersburg may be their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“People on the barrier islands who decide not to leave do so at their own peril,” Roger Desjarlais, Lee County’s county executive, said early Tuesday. “The best they can do is leave.”

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As Ian’s center moved into the Gulf, official media began showing scenes of destruction in the country’s world-famous tobacco belt. Cubadebate’s website showed images of devastation at the Finca Robaina cigar maker, where wood-and-thatched roofs were smashed to the ground and floodwaters poured through the town of San Juan y Martinez.

More than 1 million Cubans were without power Tuesday morning, including all of the western provinces of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. There were no reports of deaths.

Ian’s forward motion was expected to slow over the Gulf, allowing the hurricane to grow wider and stronger before bringing punishing winds and water to Florida’s west coast. Forecasters said the surge of seawater could reach 10 feet (3 meters) if it peaks at high tide. Rainfall may total 16 inches (41 centimeters) with as much as 24 inches (61 centimeters) in isolated areas. Coastal communities may be flooded.

As many as 300,000 people could be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, County Administrator Bonnie Wise said. Some of those evacuations began Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other places opening as shelters.

“We must do everything we can to protect our residents. Time is of the essence,” Wise said.

Lee County — where Fort Myers is located on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast — also issued mandatory evacuations early Tuesday for low-lying areas including Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Bonita Beach, home to about 250,000 people, after forecasters expanded the hurricane warning area.

“With the kind of tidal surge we’re talking about, it wouldn’t be uncommon for both islands to be overwashed, and that’s a dangerous place to be,” Desjarlais said. “We cannot by law force people off the islands, but we strongly recommend that they leave.”

Floridians lined up for hours in Tampa to collect bags of sand and cleared store shelves of bottled water. DeSantis declared a statewide emergency and mobilized 5,000 Florida National Guard troops, with another 2,000 on standby in neighboring states.

In Key West, the airport closed Tuesday as driving rain from the storm added to a king tide to flood the streets, prompting animal rescuers to delay their outing until Ian passed. In Orlando, Disney World closed four hotels as a precaution while holding off on any decision to close its theme parks. In Florida’s northeast corner, the U.S. Navy said it planned to move ships and aircraft from its base outside Jacksonville.

NASA rolled its moon rocket from the launch pad to its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the test flight. The airports in Tampa and St. Petersburg announced they will close Tuesday afternoon.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect life and property. FEMA has strategically placed generators, millions of meals and millions of gallons of water, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Damaging winds and flooding are expected across the entire peninsula as Ian moves north, reaching Georgia, South Carolina and other parts of the southeastern United States between Friday and Sunday, the hurricane center said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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