DeSantis declares emergency in Florida before storm Ian

Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian gained strength in the Caribbean and was forecast to become a hurricane in a few days as it moved into the state.

DeSantis initially issued an emergency order for two dozen counties on Friday, but expanded it to the entire state, encouraging people and local authorities to prepare for a storm that could hit large sections of Florida.

“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a powerful hurricane and we call on all Floridians to prepare,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and municipal government partners to follow up on the potential consequences of this storm.”

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency for the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida because of the storm.

The National Hurricane Center reported that according to forecasts, Ian will strengthen before passing through western Cuba and reaching the west coast and northwestern Florida in the middle of next week. The agency added that Florida residents should have hurricane plans and advised residents to watch for updates on storm development.

Ian is forecast to become a hurricane on Sunday and a powerful hurricane on Monday night. Ian had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (85 kph) Saturday night about 395 kilometers (639 km) south of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the island and hurricane watches were issued for western Cuba.

“Ian is forecast to begin to rapidly intensify,” the hurricane center reported.

John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it’s currently unclear where Ian will hit Florida the hardest, adding that residents should start preparing for the storm, including stocking up for potential power outages.

“It’s too early to say if it’s going to be a southeast Florida problem or a central Florida problem or a statewide problem,” he said. “So at this time, the right message for those who live in Florida is to be aware of the weather forecasts and prepare for the potential impact of this tropical system.”

In Pinellas Park, near Tampa, people were lined up outside the Home Depot when it opened at 6 a.m., according to the Tampa Bay Times. Manager Wendy Macrini said the store had sold 600 bottles of water for the afternoon and the generators ran out.

People also bought sheets of veneered wood to protect their windows. “Better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them,” Matt Beaver of Pinellas Park told the Times.

The governor’s declaration frees up funds for emergencies and activates members of the Florida National Guard, according to his office. His order stresses that there is a risk of storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other conditions in different parts of the state.

Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical Cyclone Fiona made landfall early Saturday in Nova Scotia in Atlantic Canada. The storm washed homes into the sea, ripped the roofs off others and knocked out power to the vast majority of two Canadian provinces with more than 500,000 affected customers at the storm’s peak.

Fiona had morphed from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm Friday night, but still had gale force winds and caused torrential rain and huge waves. There was no confirmation of deaths or injuries.


Associated Press writer Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.

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