Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane Sunday as it continues to make a projected path toward Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecast models have shifted westward over the past 24 hours, now indicating there is a significant chance the storm will make landfall somewhere on the Florida panhandle or in the Big Bend region.
UPDATE Saturday, 5:30 p.m. EDT:
Forecasters have shifted their models for the storm westward, now including most of the Florida Panhandle.
Panhandle and central-northern penninsula residents are highly advised to complete hurricane preparations ahead of Tuesday, with the storm likely to make landfall on Wednesday or Thursday.
As the storm nears, prediction models will become more precise, and a narrower path will be produced.
Tropical Depression 9, which began as a storm system along the northern coast of South America earlier this week, strengthened into a Tropical Storm named Ian Friday night as it approached Jamaica.
The storm is projected to become a major hurricane (category 3 or above) or near major hurricane in the coming days.
According to forecasters, the storm's center is currently projected to hit somewhere along the Florida Peninsula in the early to middle part of next week, as shown in the cone model produced by the National Hurricane Center.
While the storm is not forecasted for the Panhandle, there is a high amount of uncertainty about the long-term future of the storm. Panhandle communities are advised to check the forecast often and prepare as if the storm were coming to the panhandle until the confidence in the forecast increases.
Cone models are accurate in about two out of three cases, and they predict the possible future locations of the center of the storm. The cone in the forecast for Ian still remains wide, with edges reaching Gulf County and the Florida Keys as of Saturday morning.
Strong storm-like conditions are still possible in the Panhandle if the storm does hit within the projected cone, including heavy rainfall and high wind speeds.
Forecasts should improve in certainty through the weekend and into the early part of next week.
For tips on how to remain hurricane prepared, visit https://www.stateofflorida.com/articles/hurricane-preparedness-guide/#:~:text=Make%20sure%20all%20trees%20and,secure%20and%20brace%20internal%20doors.
Yesterday Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 24 counties in anticipation of the storm striking Florida next week.
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