Hurricane Ian hits Cuba, prompting mass evacuations in Florida

The storm is expected to strengthen in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, reaching winds of 225 km per hour (140 miles per hour) as it approaches the southwest coast of Florida. Tropical storm winds are expected to cross the southern peninsula Tuesday evening and reach hurricane strength Wednesday morning.

“Right now, we’re focusing on the west-central Florida region as the primary affected area,” hurricane specialist Andy Latto told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Hurricane Ian came after Hurricane Fiona, a powerful hurricane that killed at least a dozen people, knocked out power and caused massive damage to homes and roads in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Canada .

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said around 2.5 million people were under evacuation orders in the state and warned damage was expected over a large area where Ian landed. He urged people to prepare for power outages and avoid storms.

“When you have five to 10 foot storm surge, that’s not something you want to be a part of,” said DeSantis, who declared a statewide emergency and mobilized 5,000 troops. of the Florida National Guard, with 2,000 more on standby in the state. neighbor.

“And Mother Earth is a very scary counselor,” he said.

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Tampa resident Gil Gonzalez covered his windows with plywood on Tuesday and prepared sandbags to protect his home.

He and his wife had stocked up on bottled water and flashlights, batteries for their cell phones and a camp stove with a large propane burner as they prepared to evacuate.

“Any valuables, we put them upstairs at a friend’s house and nearby, and loaded the car,” Gonzalez said. “I think we are ready.”

US President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency over the impending hurricane, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property.

FEMA has strategically positioned generators, along with millions of food and millions of gallons of water, to help, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

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

Robert Butler

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