The time to prepare is now, forecasters say, as the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. update shows Tropical Storm Ian has formed and could reach Bradenton, Sarasota and the Tampa Bay area as a major hurricane early next week.
Storm surge, hurricane-force winds of up to 110 mph and heavy rainfall are possible.
“While it is too soon to determine the exact magnitude and location of these impacts, residents in Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida peninsula should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and closely monitor forecast updates through the weekend,” the Hurricane Center said in its updated advisory.
The forecasting models are in agreement that the storm will gather strength while moving west through the Caribbean, north over Cuba, further strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico and continue toward the Florida coastline.
The uncertainty is around when the storm will turn north, which will send it either up the west coast or toward South Florida.
Ian is expected to gradually intensify over warm waters for the next 36 hours, and then “conditions will be conducive for faster strengthening,” the Hurricane Center said.
The storm is forecast to be a hurricane Sunday night before reaching Cuba on Monday, and be a major hurricane ahead of landfall in Florida.
“It’s also possible Ian could be stronger than what’s shown in the official forecast,” the Hurricane Center said at 11 p.m. “The storm is not expected to be over Cuba long enough to cause much weakening, and the forecast still shows Ian as a major hurricane over the eastern Gulf of Mexico while approaching the west coast of Florida.”
Manatee County and Bradenton are making sand bags available to residents starting Saturday.
“Don’t panic, we are still in the early stages of this event,” Acting NHC Director Jamie Rhome said in a livestream update Friday afternoon.
Residents should be prepared for severe weather and power outages, forecasters say.
“You really need to start going through your hurricane supplies ... make sure you have everything that you need on hand.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday declared a state of emergency for 24 Florida counties, including Manatee and Sarasota, which makes state resources and funding available.
Manatee County Government said the Emergency Operations Center has been coordinating with state preparedness teams and National Weather Service forecasters.
The county also warned those living in flood-prone areas.
“Many low-lying and coastal areas of Manatee County are already saturated from recent rains and could experience temporary flooding if the storm brings heavy rain,” the email said.
Any resident with special needs should register with the county immediately.
The next Hurricane Center updates will be at 2 a.m., 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.
TD Nine has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Ian. While it is too soon to determine the exact magnitude and location of impacts, residents in Florida should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and closely monitor forecast updates through the weekend. pic.twitter.com/mePijOpPNk
— NWS Tampa Bay (@NWSTampaBay) September 24, 2022