– Hurricane Ian approaches Cuba, Florida prepares for its arrival
Western Cuba is placed on “alert” awaiting the arrival late Monday or early Tuesday of Hurricane Ian which is expected to become a “major hurricane”, while in the United States, Florida is preparing for be affected in turn.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the United States warned that Ian was intensifying and that “conditions in western Cuba will deteriorate” with “significant wind and storm surge impacts”.
“Maximum sustained winds have increased to nearly 155 km/h with higher gusts. Rapid strengthening is expected over the next 24 hours and Ian is expected to become a major hurricane this (Monday) evening or early Tuesday when it approaches the west coast of Cuba,” the NHC warned in its latest bulletin.
The organization qualifies as “major” hurricanes those whose winds reach at least 178 km/h, that is to say categories 3, 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It would then be likely to inflict “devastating” damage, damaging houses, uprooting trees and disrupting the supply of water and electricity.
Cuban Civil Defense issued Monday morning a “cyclonic alert” for the six westernmost provinces of the island: Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, Havana, Mayabeque, Cienfuegos and Isla de la Juventud, an island located in 344 km south of the capital. In the “alert” phase, the authorities are preparing for evacuations in risk areas, as well as the installation of drinking water tanks and medical posts.
The rains accompanied by wind began to fall on the west of the Caribbean island, noted AFP, while the authorities and the inhabitants protected their property as best they could. The largest island in the British Cayman Islands territory, Grand Cayman, which Ian is expected to pass by on Monday, also issued a hurricane warning.
“Ian will then emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday (…) and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday and Thursday,” the NHC warned. A state of emergency was declared in all of Florida’s 67 counties and authorities were ramping up preparations.
Ian “will cause heavy rain, high winds, flash flooding and storm surges, as well as isolated tornadoes along Florida’s Gulf Coast,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned Monday in Tallahassee. . He asked residents to stock up on food, water, medicine and fuel as well as prepare for power cuts. Some 5,000 members of the National Guard are mobilized, plus 2,000 reinforcements from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, he said.
Several municipalities in Florida, such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa, have started distributing sandbags to residents to help them protect their homes from the risk of flooding.
Hillsborough (west), where Tampa is located, and Collier (southwest) counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders for the most vulnerable coastal areas. “We didn’t make this decision easily, but the storm poses a serious threat,” County Administrator Bonnie Wise said at a press conference on Monday.
US President Joe Biden has placed 24 of the counties in a state of emergency, allowing federal aid to be released.
NASA has given up the takeoff scheduled for Tuesday of its new mega-rocket for the Moon, from the Kennedy Space Center located in this southern state of the United States.
In Honduras, more than 12,000 people had to be evacuated in the north of the country after the flooding of rivers caused by the rains associated with the passage of Ian, announced Monday the civil protection services.
The rains add to those of the past few weeks which have soaked the ground and led to flooding which has killed 13 people. A decree signed by President Xiomara Castro declares a state of emergency throughout the national territory for the next 90 days of the hurricane season.
Ian follows Hurricane Fiona which sowed death and destruction last week in the Caribbean, where at least seven people were killed, and on Saturday on the Atlantic coast of Canada (two dead).
“At the end of the day, this will be the storm that has caused the most damage that we have ever seen,” commented Tim Houston, the premier of one of the most affected provinces, Nova Scotia, on CBC Sunday. News.
The hurricane had already killed at least seven people last week, including four in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in Guadeloupe (France).