Before reaching Florida, Hurricane Ian is predicted to strengthen after hitting Cuba.

With nothing to stop it, Storm Ian has plowed through western Cuba and is now likely to strike Florida on Wednesday as a devastating category 4 hurricane.

Before reaching Florida, Hurricane Ian is predicted to strengthen after hitting Cuba.
As Hurricane Ian approaches, locals in Tampa, Florida, build sandbags on Ben T Davis Beach. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Florida's Tampa and St. Petersburg may experience their first direct hurricane impact since 1921.

On Tuesday morning, Ian made ashore in the province of Pinar del Ro in Cuba, where authorities had already organized 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency workers, and taken precautions to save crops in the island's primary tobacco-growing area.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that "severe wind and storm surge effects" were happening in western Cuba when Ian went over the city of Pinar del Ro with maximum speeds of 125 mph (205 kph).

Ian was expected to intensify much more over the warm Gulf of Mexico seas after passing over Cuba, with gusts reaching 140 mph before making landfall again. Florida was forecast to experience tropical storm-force gusts late Tuesday, with hurricane-force winds predicted on Wednesday.

Before reaching Florida, Hurricane Ian is predicted to strengthen after hitting Cuba.
The province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba is where Hurricane Ian makes landfall. Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from Bonita Beach north to Tampa Bay to the Anclote River, saying there was a 100% risk of destructive winds and water along Florida's west coast.

"Please take this storm very seriously. It's the genuine article. "This is not a practice," Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said on Monday during a storm preparations press conference in Tampa.

Although western Cuba is sparsely inhabited, with tropical storm force gusts stretching 115 miles from Ian's center, Cuba's capital was not spared. Residents in Havana were openly concerned about flooding ahead of the storm, with workmen unclogging storm drains and fishermen removing their boats from the water.

"I'm terrified because my house gets entirely flooded, with water up to here," Adyz Ladron explained, indicating to his chest.

Residents in Havana's El Fanguito, an impoverished neighborhood along the Almendares River, packed everything they could.

"I'm hoping we can avoid this one because it would be the last of us." "We already have so little," said Abel Rodrigues, a health worker.

Ian's forward motion was predicted to halt over the Gulf, allowing the storm to expand and strengthen before bringing severe wind and water on Florida's west coast.

Before reaching Florida, Hurricane Ian is predicted to strengthen after hitting Cuba.
Prior to Hurricane Ian's approach, farmer Cito Braga of Coloma, Cuba, covers a window with plastic. Image Credit :  Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Forecasters predict that the surge of ocean water might reach 10ft (3 metres) if it peaks at high tide, and that rainfall could total 16in (41cm), with up to 24in in isolated spots. Coastal villages may be flooded.

Floridians queued for hours in Tampa to grab sand bags and empty shop shelves of bottled water. Governor Ron DeSantis announced a state of emergency, warning that Ian may lash significant sections of the state, knocking out electricity and disrupting gasoline supply.

"You have a tremendous storm that might become a category 4 hurricane," DeSantis warned during a press conference on Monday. "That will result in a massive storm surge." You will experience flooding. You'll have a lot of diverse effects."

The NHC predicted damaging winds and floods throughout the whole peninsula as Ian moved north, hitting Georgia, South Carolina, and other regions of the south-eastern US between Friday and Sunday.

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