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Florida tries to prepare as Hurricane Ian makes landfall According to Reuters



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tropical Storm Ian is seen near the coast of Cuba in this satellite image taken September 25, 2022. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) / Handout via REUTERS

(This September 26 story has been edited to remove the irrelevant word “in” in paragraph 6)

By Shannon Stapleton and Brendan O’Brien

TEMPA (Reuters) – Residents across Florida scrambled to place sandbags around their homes and stock up on emergency supplies on Monday, emptying store shelves as Hurricane Ian made landfall in the state bringing high winds, torrential rain and strong tides.

Ian’s road to Florida forced US space agency NASA to roll the massive Artemis 1 lunar rocket off the Cape Canaveral launch pad after postponing the highly anticipated mission for the third time.

Ian was a Category 2 storm as of Monday night, with winds above 100 mph and is expected to strengthen before making landfall in Cuba. Forecasters say once Ian leaves Cuba, the storm could make landfall north of Tampa Bay early Friday or turn northwest toward Florida’s Panhandle.

“This is a really big storm,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told a news conference, saying the storm is likely to cover both coasts of the state.

The Biden administration declared a public health emergency for the state on Monday and said it was working with local officials to provide assistance.

Florida has seen wetter, windier and more intense hurricanes in recent years, which experts attribute to climate change. There is also evidence that climate change is causing storms to move more slowly, meaning they can dump more water in one spot.

Signs of an impending storm were seen across Florida, a state of 21 million people. In Titusville, a city of 43,000 people on the Atlantic Coast, crews used chainsaws to trim palm trees.

In a grocery store in St.Petersburg, across the state on the Gulf Coast, only empty cardboard boxes remained where the store normally stocked distilled water. Toilet paper, snacks and canned soups can still be found.

In Ybor City’s historic Tampa neighborhood, northeast of downtown, 64-year-old Diane Zambito said she isn’t usually worried by hurricanes making landfall in the state.

“But this is different,” she said Monday afternoon as her husband nailed plywood to their window. “This scares me. It’s too big not to be afraid if you’re conscious.”

The couple intend to shovel sand into bags and then pile it up in front of the door to prevent water from flowing inside.

PROTECTION OF THE COUNTRY MOTION

Zabitos are among many Florida residents preparing for flooding that could engulf streets and homes. The storm could damage or destroy homes and businesses and cause power outages in the coming days, forecasters warned.

The governor mobilized 5,000 National Guard members. An additional 2,000 people from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina and surrounding states have troops on standby.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston said her island city could be one of the first in the United States to be affected by Hurricane Ian.

Johnston said homeowners and vacation home renters nailed shutters or storm panels to the windows as residents stocked up on enough food and water to last for a week.

“A coconut can become a 30-pound projectile in a storm,” she said.

City vehicles were moved to higher ground and residents living on boats were asked to seek shelter on land before the storm began to hit the city on Monday night. Forecasters have predicted a 4-foot (1.2-meter) high tide that could push seawater into shores and streets.

“If there is an evacuation, I will be the one to order it,” Johnston said. “We’ll look at it if the storm moves east.”

The storm strengthened about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Grand Cayman on Monday morning with sustained winds of 80 mph (128 km per hour).

BP (NYSE:) Plc has halted oil production at two rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters say Ian could strengthen to a Category 3 storm once it enters the Gulf of Mexico, but will weaken again while parked off Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Thursday. From there, the path of the storm is uncertain.

Bob Oravec, meteorologist with the National Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain is expected to inundate both Florida’s Gulf coast and Atlantic Ocean on Thursday.

Ian follows Hurricane Fiona, a powerful Category 4 hurricane that made a devastating path last week through Puerto Rico, leaving much of the US without electricity and potable water. Fiona then plunges through the Turks and Caicos Islands, past Bermuda and crashing into Canada’s Atlantic coast, where critical infrastructure can take months to repair.



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