(NewsNation) — Tropical Storm Ian is gathering strength over the Caribbean and is expected to bring heavy rain and hurricane-force winds to Florida as soon as next week.
In preparation for the storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all the counties in the state and asked for a pre-landfall declaration from the federal government as well. The state of emergency had initially been for 24 counties before being expanded Saturday.
This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts of this storm.”
Ian initially formed as a tropical depression Friday morning, WFLA reported, and has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall.
“The threat posed by Tropical Storm Ian requires that timely precautions are taken to protect the communities, infrastructure, and general welfare of Florida,” the statement from the governor’s office said.
John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist with National Hurricane Center in Miami, told the Associated Press that it is currently unclear where Ian will hit hardest in Florida, and advised residents to begin preparing for the storm.
“Too soon to say if it’s going to be a southeast Florida problem or a central Florida problem or just the entire state,” he said to the outlet. “So at this point really the right message for those living in Florida is that you have to watch forecasts and get ready and prepare yourself for potential impact from this tropical system.”
The New York Times said the storm could hit the peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane, or even higher. Forecasts as of 11 a.m. EDT Saturday from the National Hurricane Center said Ian is moving toward the west near 15 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. This general motion is expected to continue through Saturday night.
On Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said, Ian will turn toward the northwest before taking a north-northwestward turn on Monday.
The center of Tropical Storm Ian should move across the central Caribbean Sea Saturday, then pass the southwest of Jamaica Sunday. It will pass near or over the Cayman Islands Sunday night and early Monday. On Monday, Ian will approach western Cuba and emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
By late Sunday, Ian could become a hurricane and could be “at or near” major hurricane strength late Monday.
NASA decided to scrub its planned Tuesday launch opportunity for its new moon rocket, Artemis I, because of Tropical Storm Ian. The entire state, including NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is in a cone showing the storm’s probable path.
According to the New York Times, Ian is the ninth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.
Fiona, another named storm, made landfall Saturday morning on Canada. That system was a hurricane that wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico earlier in the week, but it later transformed into a powerful post-tropical cyclone.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.