Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida braces for winds, floods

APTOPIX_Cuba_Tropical_Weather_43209 A family walks in the rain in search of shelter after Hurricane Ian flooded their home in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
APTOPIX_Cuba_Tropical_Weather_91365 A man carries two children in the rain in search of shelter after Hurricane Ian flooded their home in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
APTOPIX_Cuba_Tropical_Weather_98795 A family walks in the rain after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_42031 Workers board up the windows of a 7-Eleven convenience store in the Ybor City district in preparation for Hurricane Ian approaches the western side of the state, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_15983 City employees load sandbags into people's cars as they pull up to a station at Northwest Park, in preparation for Hurricane Ian, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_59262 A family walks through the rain in search of shelter after their home flooded when Hurricane Ian hit in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_85720 A dog is walked through floodwater as the tide rise, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Key West, Fla., as the first bands of rain associated with Hurricane Ian pass to the west of the island chain. Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) as it approaches the Florida’s southwest coast.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_05067 Residents fill sandbags at Barnett Park, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Orlando, Fla., to prepare for the arrival of hurricane Ian.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_31311 A woman points to damage in her roof, above the second story, caused by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_31025 Guests depart the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in the final minutes before the park closed early to accommodate an evening special event, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando all announced Tuesday that they will be closed Wednesday and Thursday due to the weather conditions caused by Hurricane Ian.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_11227 Eastbound traffic crowds Interstate 4 as people evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Ian approaches the western side of the state, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Lake Alfred, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_16459 Visitors to the Southernmost Point buoy brave the high waves from Hurricane Ian crash for photos, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Key West, Fla. Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) as it approaches the Florida's southwest coast.
Tropical_Weather_69767 Canceled flights are shown on a video board at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of a planned landfall by Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_84281 A Delta Airlines Boeing 757 pushes back from the gate at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm today ahead of a potential landfall by Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to hit somewhere along Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_66509 A man walks his dog during a break of heavy rain, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Miami Beach, Fla. Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall on the west coast of Florida.
APTOPIX_Tropical_Weather_Florida_31194 News crews, tourists and local residents take images as high waves from Hurricane Ian crash into the seawall at the Southernmost Point buoy, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Key West, Fla. Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) as it approaches the Florida’s southwest coast.
Tropical_Weather_39468 A man, along with his Macaw and cat, prepares his sailboat on the Davis Islands yacht basin ahead of the potential arrival of Hurricane Ian Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida's west coast.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_85749
Tropical_Weather_17130 Coeval Gonzalez, right, and Gustavo Sakharov, of Colombia, tie up sand bags on the Davis Islands beach ahead of the possible arrival of Hurricane Ian Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Ian is predicted to make landfall along Florida's wet coast.
APTOPIX_Cuba_Tropical_Weather_97937 Fallen utility poles and fallen branches line a street after Hurricane Ian hit Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_31547 Residents of the El Fanguito neighborhood carry a mattress to a safe place in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian is growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_00822 A family walks in the rain in search of shelter after Hurricane Ian flooded their home in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_00577 People wait in lines to fuel their vehicles at a Costco Wholesale store in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.
APTOPIX_Tropical_Weather_Florida_10503 Traffic builds along Interstate 4 in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, as Hurricane Ian approaches.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_36339 Residents of the El Fanguito neighborhood move their belongings to a safe place as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.
Tropical_Weather_33462 Southwest Airline passengers check into a ticket counter near a sign that shows canceled flights at the Tampa International Airport Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm EST today ahead of Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere along Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_41745 Jesus Rodrigues takes wood to his vehicle outside a Home Depot store in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday.
APTOPIX_Tropical_Weather_Florida_95402 Residents and city workers fill sandbags at West Park in downtown Clermont, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in preparation for Hurricane Ian.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_82510 Visitors to the Southernmost Point buoy brave the high waves from Hurricane Ian crash for photos, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Key West, Fla. Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) as it approaches the Florida’s southwest coast.
APTOPIX_Tropical_Weather_15088 Workers from Specialized Performance Delivered 24:7 board up the windows on the historical Henry B. Plant Hall on the campus of the University of Tampa ahead of Hurricane Ian Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Ian is predicted to make landfall somewhere on Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_52854 This GOES-East GeCcolor satellite image taken at 9:56 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Ian passing over western Cuba. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore Wednesday.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_49090 A kite surfer flies in the air as they take advantage of strong winds caused by Hurricane Ian, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, Fla.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_54030 Crews clear fallen trees bought down by the winds of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_01579 A vehicle weaves through fallen trees bought down by the winds of Hurricane Ian, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_76445 A man leans over next to an oveturned box filled with a fishing line, after Hurricane Ian's storm surge flooded the area in Playa Cajio, Artemisa, Cuba, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_56704 A man stands on the doorframe of his home after Hurricane Ian's storm surge flooded the area in Boca de Cajio, Artemisa, Cuba, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up shelters, evacuated people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation's main tobacco-growing region.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_20146 Kite surfers take advantage of strong winds caused by distant Hurricane Ian, at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, Fla. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Miami's skyline is seen in the background.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_36740 Kite surfers glide across the water as they take advantage of strong winds caused by Hurricane Ian, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_43545 A man flies high with the Miami skyline in the background, as kite surfers take advantage of strong winds caused by distant Hurricane Ian, at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_84281 A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 pushes back from the gate at the Tampa International Airport, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The airport is closing at 5pm today ahead of a potential landfall by Hurricane Ian. Ian is predicted to hit somewhere along Florida's west coast.
Tropical_Weather_65067 This Sept. 26, 2022, satellite image released by NASA shows Hurricane Ian growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba. Ian was forecast to hit the western tip of Cuba as a major hurricane and then become an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking Florida. via AP)
Tropical_Weather_Florida_85720 A dog is walked through floodwater as the tide rise, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Key West, Fla., as the first bands of rain associated with Hurricane Ian pass to the west of the island chain. Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph (225 kmh) as it approaches the Florida’s southwest coast.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_80789 A pedestrian crosses an empty street during the passing of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, early Thursday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_39244 Wind blows a palm tree at the Antonio Maceo Monument along the malecon sea wall during the passing of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, early Thursday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_99931 Michael Perez and Julissa Orozco, right, watch as the approach of Hurricane Ian kicks up the surf at Vinoy Park, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_83142 Lukas Berlajolli, above, and Tony Fazliu help tape up the windows of a pizza restaurant in the Ybor City district in preparation for Hurricane Ian as the storm approaches the western side of the state, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_32156 Carlos Hermida Sr., above, and Carlos Hermida board up their business in the Ybor City district in preparation for Hurricane Ian as the storm approaches the western side of the state, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
Tropical_Weather_Florida_00024 People ride along the bayfront as an outer band of Hurricane Ian approaches and kicks up the surf at Vinoy Park, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_70063 Men lead their ox cart past a tobacco warehouse smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_27827 Maria Llonch retrieves her belongings from her home damaged by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_55614 A man recovers pieces of roofing smashed by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_27612 A classic American car drives past utility poles tilted by Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Cuba_Tropical_Weather_35910 Mercedes Valdez holds her dog Kira as she waits for transportation after losing her home to Hurricane Ian in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
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HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday, knocking out power to the entire country and leaving 11 million people without electricity, before churning on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm.

Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kmh).

Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130 mph (209 kph) approaching the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

Tropical storm-force winds were expected across the southern peninsula late Tuesday, reaching hurricane-force Wednesday — when the eye was predicted to make landfall. With tropical storm-force winds extending 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Ian’s center, damage was expected across a wide area of Florida.

It was not yet clear precisely where Ian would crash ashore. Its exact track could determine how severe the storm surge is for Tampa Bay, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Landfall south of the bay could make the impact “much less bad,” McNoldy said.

Gil Gonzalez boarded up his windows Tuesday and had sandbags ready to protect his Tampa home. He and his wife had stocked up on bottled water and packed flashlights, battery packs for their cellphones and a camp stove before evacuating.

“All the prized possessions, we’ve put them upstairs in a friend’s house and nearby, and we’ve got the car loaded,” Gonzalez said on his way out.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people to prepare for extended power outages, and to get out of the storm’s potential path.

“It is a big storm, it is going to kick up a lot of water as it comes in,” DeSantis told a news conference in Sarasota, a coastal city of 57,000 that could be hit. “And you’re going to end up with really significant storm surge and you’re going to end up with really significant flood events. And this is the kind of storm surge that is life threatening.”

He said about 30,000 utility workers have already been positioned around the state but it might take days before they can safely reach some of the downed power lines.

“This thing’s the real deal,” DeSantis said. “It is a major, major storm.”

DeSantis said nearly 100 shelters had been opened by Tuesday afternoon, with more expected. He said most buildings in Florida are strong enough to withstand wind, but the 2.5 million people who have been told to evacuate face the greatest danger from flooding.

Hundreds of residents were being evacuated from several nursing homes in the Tampa area, where hospitals were also moving some patients. Airports in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Key West closed. Busch Gardens in Tampa closed ahead of the storm, while several Orlando-area theme parks, including Disney World and Sea World, planned to close Wednesday and Thursday.

NASA rolled its moon rocket from the launch pad to its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the test flight.

Ian’s forward movement was expected to slow over the Gulf, enabling the hurricane to grow wider and stronger. The hurricane warning expanded Tuesday to cover roughly 220 miles (350 kilometers) of Florida’s west coast. The area includes Fort Myers as well as Tampa and St. Petersburg, which could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

Forecasters said the storm surge could reach 12 feet (3.6 meters) if it peaks at high tide. Rainfall near the area of landfall could top 18 inches (46 centimeters). They also reported a threat of isolated tornados being kicked up by the storm’s approach across Florida.

“It’s a monster and then there’s the confusion of the path,” said Renee Correa, who headed inland to Orlando from the Tampa area with her daughter and Chihuahua. “Tampa has been lucky for 100 years, but it’s a little scary now.”

Kelly Johnson was preparing to hunker down at her home two blocks from the beach in Dunedin, west of Tampa. She said she would escape to the second floor if sea water surges inland, and had a generator if power goes out.

“I’m a Floridian, and we know how to deal with hurricanes,” Johnson said. “This is part of living in paradise — knowing that once in a while these storms come at you.”

Forecasters warned the hurricane will be felt across a large area as it plows across Florida with an anticipated turn northward. Flash floods were possible across the whole state, and portions of Florida’s east coast faced a potential storm surge threat as Ian’s bands approach the Atlantic Ocean. Parts of Georgia and South Carolina also could see flooding rains into the weekend.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp pre-emptively declared a state of emergency Tuesday, ordering 500 National Guard troops on standby to respond as needed.

As the storm’s center moved into the Gulf, scenes of destruction emerged in Cuba’s world-famous tobacco belt. The owner of the premier Finca Robaina cigar producer posted photos on social media of wood-and-thatch roofs smashed to the ground, greenhouses in rubble and wagons overturned.

“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” wrote Hirochi Robaina, grandson of the operation’s founder.

Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in Pinar del Rio city, tweeting photos of collapsed ceilings and toppled trees. No deaths were reported.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said his administration was sending hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency employees to Florida and sought to assure mayors in the storm’s path that Washington will meet their needs. He urged residents to heed local officials’ orders.

“Your safety is more important than anything,” he said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden spoke later Tuesday evening with DeSantis on federal steps to help Florida prepare for the storm and both committed to close coordination.

___

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press contributors include Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida, Freida Frisaro in Miami, Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida, Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, Seung Min Kim and Seth Borenstein in Washington and Bobby Caina Calvan and Julie Walker in New York.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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