As Ian rapidly intensifies into a hurricane and approaches the U.S, a Florida forecaster warns that it could be the storm of a "lifetime."
On Monday (September 26), evacuation orders were issued for some military personnel and residents as Ian whipped 80-mph winds and drew closer to Florida, CNN reports.
Floridians could begin feeling the effects of Ian as early as Tuesday (September 27), according to the outlet. Forecasters predict that Ian will develop into a major hurricane, yielding winds of 111 mph or greater by the time it makes landfall in the U.S.
“Rapid strengthening is expected during the next day or so, and Ian is forecast to become a major hurricane (Monday night) or early Tuesday when it is near western Cuba and remain a major hurricane over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Ian could follow a wide range of paths, according to forecasters, but it's evident that Tampa, Florida may receive its first direct hit from a hurricane since 1921.
“The last major hurricane that actually made a direct hit was 100 years ago,” said meteorologist Rick Davis of the National Weather Service’s Tampa office. “So there’s a lot of people that have been brushed by hurricanes in the last five or 10 years in Florida.”
Even if Tampa isn't directly hit by the hurricane, Tampa Bay is extremely susceptible to storm surges, which could still result in catastrophic damage, per CNN.
“We tell people even if they’re lifelong Floridians like myself, this is something that we haven’t seen in our lifetime,” Davis said. “So we definitely need to take it seriously.”
According to the hurricane center, “heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and possible mudslides" are also expected in parts of Jamaica and Cuba, as Ian makes its way through the eastern Gulf of Mexico and approaches Florida.
“Efforts to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” forecasters said, per CNN.