Hurricane Ian in Gulf with path shift again targeting Florida as major hurricane

Hurricane Ian plowed into Cuba early Tuesday growing in strength to a Category 3 major hurricane with a projected path that sees the storm growing further before making a likely landfall in Florida between Tampa and Naples late Wednesday.

As of 11 a.m., the National Hurricane Center puts the center of Ian in the Gulf of Mexico about 305 miles south-southwest of Sarasota. It made landfall at 4:30 a.m. on the western side of Cuba and is moving north at 10 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend out 35 miles with tropical-force-storm winds out 140 miles.

“On the forecast track, the center of Ian is expected to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico in a couple of hours, pass west of the Florida Keys later today, and approach the west coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area on Wednesday and Wednesday night,” NHC forecasters said.

Interaction with land dropped its sustained winds from 125 mph to 115 mph, but the NHC expects it to regain strength Tuesday afternoon into a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds and 165 mph gusts in the Gulf of Mexico before turning, slowing down its forward speed and making a beeline to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The updated 11 a.m. track has shifted the consensus center of the path predicting landfall near Venice south of Sarasota with 125 mph sustained winds and 155 mph gusts by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“We were here 48 hours ago and most of the solutions had it going up the coast — the west coast of Florida,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Tuesday morning press conference from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “Now most of them have it ramming into the state of Florida and cutting across and so just be be prepared for that and understand that that’s something that could be happening.”

Earlier models Tuesday had the storm potentially tracking right into Tampa Bay.

Impacts will be felt far broader than where the hurricane ultimately makes landfall, DeSantis said, urging people along the Gulf coast to heed warnings and evacuation orders from their local officials. Also, he said, remember you don’t have to evacuate hundreds of miles, just seek higher, dryer ground.

”Mother nature is a fierce adversary,” he said.

For those evacuating, DeSantis announced that Expedia has set up a special page for inexpensive lodging options at

He said every one of the state’s long-term care facilities in the state have an active generator on site with the threat of major power outages this week.

“Make sure you’re executing your plan. This is this is imminent,” he said.

The continued shift in projected path Tuesday prompted the NHC to extend the hurricane warning along Florida’s west coast farther south so it now runs from Bonita Beach up to the Anclote River near Tarpon Springs including all of Tampa Bay as well as the Dry Tortugas. A Hurricane Watch was issued for North of Anclote River to the Suwannee River as well as from Bonita Beach south to Chokoloskee.

Much of Central Florida including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole counties are now under a tropical storm warning while Volusia is under a tropical storm watch. Tropical-storm conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours. Lake, Sumter and Polk counties are also under a hurricane watch.

The impact for the region from Ian is expected to be rain, flooding, severe storms and high wind gusts, with the worst weather expected on Wednesday and Thursday. The NHC said central west Florida could see between 12 and 16 inches of rain with some maximum totals up to 24 inches.

“Widespread considerable flash and urban flooding are expected mid-to-late week across central and northern Florida, southern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina, with significant, prolonged river flooding expected across central to northern Florida,” the NHC said. “Flash and urban flooding are also expected with rainfall across southern Florida through mid week.”

County emergency officials in Seminole County said certain areas including along the Wekiva River and Lake Harney are among those at risk.

“Regardless of where the storm goes exactly, this will be a flooding event,” said Alan Harris, Seminole’s director of the office for emergency management. “We could see some areas receive up to 15 inches of rain.”

Harris urged residents who live along the Wekiva and Little Wekiva rivers, and along the St. Johns River, to prepare their properties for flooding. He compared Hurricane Ian’s impact to Central Florida as similar to 2017′s Hurricane Irma but lasting longer because of the storm forecast to stall. He calculated that storm’s winds and rain will likely start by Wednesday afternoon and continue until early Friday.

“This is going to be a longer term event,” he said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who declared a state of emergency on Monday, urged all residents to prepare emergency kits and review disaster plans.

”Make sure you have your supplies, all your medicine and your food and water,” Dyer said. “Today is your last day to get prepared, if you haven’t already done so, do what you need to do, have a family plan in the next few days.”

Tornadoes are possible in Florida beginning today as well.

Already overnight, the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in the Florida Keys as the outer bands of Ian began to move over the peninsula and possible funnel clouds were spotted near the Seven Mile Bridge around 1 a.m. and later over Islamorada, the NWS said. A third warning near Plantation Key came after 6:30 a.m.

The coast could see devastating effects from storm surge with a warning that from the middle of Longboat Key south to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor could see 8-12 feet with 5-8 feet north to Tampa Bay and south to Chokoloskee. Surge as the storm passes through the state is projected to be up to 4 feet along Florida’s East Coast including from Volusia County north into Georgia.

“The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the NHC said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday 5,000 National Guardsmen from Florida along with 2,000 more from neighboring states have been activated along with five urban search and rescue teams in preparation for the storm’s impact during a a press conference from the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

“Floridians up and down the Gulf Coast should feel the impacts of this as up to 36 hours before the actual landfall due to the size of the hurricane,” DeSantis said. “This is a really, really big hurricane at this point, the diameter, the width of it’s about 500 miles wide. So you look at the cone and if you look at where they have the landfall going, I think the landfall is still Levy County, the impacts are going to be much much broader than that.”

He warned of power loss as it makes landfall across a wide breadth of the state no matter where it finally makes landfall. As of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, just over 3,000 people in the state are without power, mostly in Miami-Dade County according to

“Make sure you have your plan in place,” he said.

In Central Florida, dozens of cars waited in line for gas Tuesday at the Winter Park Costco, although other gas stations near the warehouse club had no lines ahead of Hurricane Ian.

On the Gulf Coast, preparing for the storm in Indian Rocks Beach in Pinellas County, Michael Faraone, 38, has never feared a storm as much as he fears Hurricane Ian. He worked Tuesday morning to board up Pajano’s Pizza, a restaurant his family has owned since 1971.

“This one is the most concerning,” he said. “This is no joke. It could be life-changing for everyone.”

He said he’s confident the Tampa Bay-area will make it through the storm. Customers and friends have already been stopping by the pizzeria to offer their help.

“It’s scary, but it’s good to see everyone come together,” Faraone said.

DeSantis said 2.5 million people are now under evacuation orders. That includes Charlotte, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, which all have all ordered mandatory evacuation for residents from vulnerable areas.

Residents can plug in their addresses at to find out what zone they’re in

Other counties will be issuing evacuation orders as well, and DeSantis urged residents to listen to their local officials and “heed their warnings.”

President Joe Biden this week declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property.

NASA decided Monday to roll its $4.1 billion Artemis I mission rocket back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, which it completed Tuesday morning.

Across Central Florida, schools began shutting down Tuesday with many planned to be out through at least Thursday.

By Tuesday, Central Florida public schools had decided to close for some or part of the week with Osceola closed Tuesday-Thursday, Lake with early dismissal Tuesday and closed Wednesday-Friday, Orange closed Wednesday and Thursday, Seminole closed Wednesday-Friday, Volusia closed Wednesday-Thursday, Polk closed Tuesday-Wednesday and Brevard County closed Wednesday-Thursday. Statewide, you can check for updates.

Valencia College, Lake-Sumter State College and Seminole State College all will cancel classes this week because of the storm, according to the Florida Department of Education. Valencia, which serves Orange and Osceola counties, is holding classes Tuesday but will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. Eight of Florida’s 12 public universities plan shut downs this week, too, including the University of Central Florida, Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

Bethune-Cookman University, a private historically Black university in Daytona Beach, announced a mandatory campus evacuation beginning Monday at noon with no return date set yet and students in residents halls were encouraged to evacuate as soon as Sunday. At B-CU classes will be moved online only on Tuesday, according to a letter by the Office of Academic Affairs on Saturday.

Rollins College in Winter Park, announced the campus will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday; with residential halls to close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and all staying closed Thursday and Friday for damage assessment.

As far as theme parks go, Busch Gardens Tampa said it would close through Thursday while Orlando’s theme parks continued to operate under normal conditions Tuesday morning as they monitor the progress of the storm.

Orlando Sanford International Airport announced Tuesday it ill close after the final flight out scheduled to depart at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Officials asked passengers with travel scheduled through SFB to contact their airline.

Staff writers Skyler Swisher, Jeffrey Schweers, Katie Rice, Nelly Ontiveros and Leslie Postal contributed to this report.