Hurricane Ian has strengthened as it moves just south of Cuba.
As of 2 p.m. on Monday, Hurricane Ian had sustained winds of up to 85 mph and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Ian was located about 195 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba and 325 miles south-southwest of Key West, Florida.
Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35 miles from the storm’s center, while tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles.
AccuWeather forecasters warn that the storm will rapidly gain intensity during the next couple of days and is forecast to become a Category 4 behemoth in the Gulf of Mexico by midweek.
In the news: Florida Gov. DeSantis To Give Hurricane Ian Update In Pinellas County
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a pre-landfall state of emergency for the entire state on Saturday afternoon and urged residents to be prepared for Ian’s impacts.
DeSantis also stated Sunday that he has activated the National Guard to help with the landfall, as well as power crews to aid with power renewal post-storm.
On Monday, DeSantis said, “Listen to the folks, at the local level, listen to what they advise in terms of preparations and any evacuations. If you’re going to be in your home, when the power goes out and you have one of the generators, just understand those generators must be operated outside the home,” DeSantis said.
“We’ve also authorized emergency refills of maintenance prescriptions for 30 days and we would anticipate anyone as part of your hurricane preparedness plan, make sure you have the prescriptions that you need,” DeSantis added.
The hurricane watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm-force winds, the NHC said.
“Folks should be prepared. If you’re in this region, there is going to be an interruption of power. So just plan on that and understand that it will happen. Even if the eye of the storm doesn’t hit your region, you’re going to have significant winds, it’s going to knock over trees and cause interruptions.”
In the news: Gov. DeSantis’ Update On Florida And Hurricane Ian Watches, Warnings, And Preparedness
“Just be prepared for that,” said DeSantis. “Once it’s safe to go in there and get as much power back on as quickly as possible.”
On Monday, Hillsborough County issued a mandatory evacuation for all of Zone A in the county and voluntary evacuations for Zone B.
Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise said, “As you know, the storm has intensified into a hurricane and he continues to grow stronger and in size. This is not surprising, it has been forecast for days As a result and in order to protect residents, we are issuing, a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A and recommending a voluntary evacuation for Zone B and opening emergency shelters.”
“All this will take effect at two o’clock today. We do not make this decision easily. This storm poses a serious threat and we must do everything we can to protect our residents I can’t stress this enough, evacuation shelters are a last resort. They are not comfortable places. They could be crowded and they could be noisy and you could be in a shelter for days,” said Wise.
Public schools, state colleges, and universities in some areas are closing this week as Florida braces for Hurricane Ian.
The state Department of Education website indicated most closures planned as of Monday morning were in the Tampa Bay area, as the storm’s track was projected to take an eastward bend toward the region.
Hillsborough County schools will be closed Monday through Thursday, while schools in Pasco and Pinellas counties will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the state website. Hernando County schools will be closed Tuesday through Thursday.
In the news: Tampa International Airport Prepares For Potential Impact From Hurricane Ian
Citrus County has been determined to close schools Wednesday and Thursday.
Lake County schools will have early dismissal on Tuesday, and will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, Hillsborough Community College will be closed Tuesday through Thursday, St. Petersburg College will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota will be closed Tuesday through Friday.
The University of South Florida canceled classes from Monday through Thursday, while New College of Florida canceled classes all week, according to the Department of Education.
The agency said it will continue publishing updates on its website about school closures related to the hurricane.