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Home U.S. Hurricane Ian’s Uncertain Path Keeps Much of Florida on Alert

Hurricane Ian’s Uncertain Path Keeps Much of Florida on Alert

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st. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, whose history has been interrupted by the passage and destruction of a major hurricane, millions of residents anxiously watched the forecast Monday, stocking up on groceries and anticipating their We were doing everything we could to prepare for the arrival of the upcoming hurricane. Hurricane Ian.

Officials have urged residents to begin evacuating some areas of low-lying areas in the coming days, with a nasty combination of dangerous storm surges, flooding and high winds expected.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news briefing, urging Florida residents to take the threat seriously. “There will be damage.”

The National Hurricane Center said early Tuesday morning that Ian had become a big hurricane — Winds over 111 miles per hour, meaning category 3 or better — due to close proximity to Cuba. It was expected to remain so the next day.

People in western Cuba were also warned to prepare for winds and storm surges. It was done.

However, the forecaster stressed that the track could change and it’s not known exactly where Ian will hit hardest.

in tampacent. Waters in the St. Petersburg region of the Gulf of Mexico were calm Monday under mostly clear skies, but the same warm waters could provide much of the devastating force to the storm.

Forecasters tracking the hurricane expect storm surges in and around Tampa Bay. Sturdy buildings can suffer structural damage, mobile homes can be destroyed. Large debris can make roads impassable and power outages can affect communications.

On Monday, homeowners moved lawn furniture indoors and put plywood on windows. At least three Publix grocery stores in the St. was doing. Soda, Gatorade, beer, and toilet paper piled up in his shopping cart.

“I couldn’t have bought more,” said Lauren Muskazi, 30, who had a large Styrofoam cooler in her SUV she bought in case of a power outage. She and her husband will probably stay in St. Petersburg with her three-month-old son, she said.

Vacationers in the area were also struck by the beach bliss. Saxon Deck of Austin, Texas, was enjoying his first vacation in a year at Pass-a-Grille Beach, a barrier island community south of St. Petersburg, when his phone rang Monday morning. woke up. It was the real estate agent she and her husband were going to meet to see the house. Instead, the agent canceled the reservation and advised Ms. Deck to leave town.

“We simply thought it might stay this way,” Deck said.

Schools and colleges across the state began canceling classes for the week, while the state suspended tolls in the West and warned residents to anticipate fuel disruptions and possible power outages. There was no need to “rush out” for fuel and water, he said. He also stressed the uncertainty of the storm’s path.

“Just because that eye may or may not be in your area, don’t assume you won’t see an impact,” DeSantis said. .”

While much of the concern has focused on Florida’s west coast, DeSantis said flooding and other impacts from the expected 500-mile-wide storm could hit Florida’s east coast as well. “This turned into a really big storm,” he said.

At the southern tip of the state, Glenda Hoffman saw preparations for a kind of hurricane unique to the Florida Keys: towing derelict boats abandoned after Cuban migrants arrived on U.S. shores.

On Monday afternoon, the crew was in Key West towing a rickety ship left behind by immigrants. Since the recent surge in migration, barely seaworthy boats have littered the Keys coastline. Now, with Hurricane Her Ian approaching, they are potential projectiles.

The small boat outside Hoffman’s building had been there for three months. A tow truck company hired by Monroe County eventually removed it, along with several other trucks visible through her window.

Ms. Hoffmann was not particularly concerned about Ian’s possible arrival. Ian is predicted to bypass the Keys on his way up the Gulf Coast of Florida. She was not ordered to evacuate, but Ms. Hoffmann was not going to comply anyway.

Her condo building is made of concrete and has windows designed to withstand winds of 170 mph.

“I want to protect my property,” she said.

Hardware stores in Key West were thriving, but rarely filled with panicked shoppers.

we are in the key Information technology specialist Ralph Gonzalez was looking for a way to install his recently purchased 6,500-watt generator in the back of his SUV. it concerns me.

Mr. Gonzalez hadn’t planned to buy a generator, but he happened to see one at Home Depot and couldn’t resist, despite the $899 price tag on the box. “I’d rather have electricity than not have it,” he said. “We are laid back, but safety first.”

When Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm in 2018, we had to pay attention to the storm.

Peggy Wood’s beloved hotel, the Driftwood Inn, was then nearly wiped out.

A friend of hers who survived the hurricane “filmed driftwood throughout the storm,” said Ms. Wood, 81.

“But when we got here, that whole back was gone,” she said Monday. “The front wall was just standing there. Perfect.”

The Wood family, who have owned Driftwood since 1975, rebuilt Driftwood and reopened in June. The hotel has been reconfigured to withstand more severe storms. Hurricane his Ian brings the first real test of its resilience.

“The old hotel was 12.5 feet above sea level. The ground floor of this hotel is 22 feet,” said Wood, who lives in the hotel. “But Michael’s big waves were 28 feet.”

Michael Levenson, Derrick Bryson Taylor When Christine Hauser contributed to the report.

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