[The Weather Channel]
Tropical Storm Ian is about to undergo explosive intensification into a major hurricane in the western Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, a danger to the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and Florida in the coming days.
As Florida prepares for Ian, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties. This will make more resources available for storm preparation and will also activate members of the Florida National Guard to be put on standby ahead of Ian's arrival.
The forecast has trended westward over the last day or so. There are aspects of the forecast in which we have more confidence, while others remain uncertain, which is typical for tropical forecasting this far out in time.
Tropical Storm Ian is located in the western Caribbean Sea and is beginning to make its long-anticipated turn toward the northwest.
It is producing some outer bands of showers with locally heavy rain wrapping into Jamaica.
Here is the latest forecast path of Ian, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ian will first track near the Cayman Islands, then western Cuba, then in the general direction either of the Florida Panhandle or Florida Peninsula.
Remember, impacts with any tropical storm or hurricane typically occur outside the cone and can arrive before the center.
Now, let's delve into more of the details with Ian's forecast and impacts.
Current Watches, Warnings and Caribbean Threats
A hurricane warning is in effect for Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, as well as for parts of western Cuba, as shown in the map below. This means hurricane conditions are expected, in this case by early Monday in Grand Cayman and by early Tuesday in western Cuba. Tropical storm conditions will arrive in those areas sooner, making preparations difficult.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for other parts of western and central Cuba, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected there Monday night or Tuesday.
Storm surge flooding of up to 4 feet above normal tides may occur in the Cayman Islands into Monday. In western Cuba, a life-threatening storm surge of up to 14 feet above normal tide levels is possible Monday night into Tuesday in hurricane-warned areas where winds blow onshore.
Heavy rain is expected in parts of the western Caribbean from Ian through Monday or Tuesday. This could lead to dangerous flash flooding and mudslides in hilly and mountainous areas, particularly in Jamaica and western Cuba.
Up to 8 inches of rain may fall in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and up to 16 inches could occur in western and central Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecast: How Strong?
Ian is forecast by the National Hurricane Center to become a hurricane in the western Caribbean Sea sometime Sunday or early Monday.
Rapid intensification is expected as the storm approaches western Cuba. Ian could be Category 3 status at that point.
Lower wind shear and an ample supply of warm, deep water in the Caribbean Sea are factors expected to contribute to Ian's rapid strengthening ahead.
Ian could also get a boost from the Loop Current, a northward current of warm water from the western Caribbean Sea into the southern Gulf of Mexico long known to be a fuel source for intense Gulf hurricanes.
By the time it reaches the southern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, Ian could be at Category 4 intensity.