MIAMI - A tropical storm watch has been issued for the lower Florida Keys as Ian nears although it appears that South Florida will escape the worst of the system, expected to hit the state as a Category 1 hurricane later this week.
In the Sunday 5 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said Ian was expected to produce "significant wind and storm surge impacts" for western Cuba.
The agency said the storm was moving slowly to the west-northwest at 12 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.
The tropical storm watch for Monroe County was issued for the lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge south to Key West.
During a Sunday news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had issued a new executive order that now covers virtually all of the state, said the storm will have "broad impacts throughout the state."
CBS Miami chief meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said Saturday night that the latest forecast models show the storm moving to the center of the Gulf of Mexico Sunday into Monday and strengthening as a Category 3 storm. But as it moves northward toward land, Ian will weaken to a Category 1 storm.
The storm's westward trek will pull it away from Naples and Tampa as well, Cabrera said but it could be a weak Cat 1 storm when it approaches the northern Florida coast.
"We're looking better in South Florida," Cabrera said Saturday night.
According to the National Hurricane Center Sunday, Ian was expected to grow to hurricane status Sunday, prompting the issuance of hurricane and tropical storm watches for western Cuba.
Local officials were urging South Floridians to.
Attorney General Ashley Moody activated a hotline for people to report price gouging. The hotline number is 1-866-966-7226.
President Joe Biden also declared an emergency for the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida due to the storm.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian was forecast to strengthen before moving over western Cuba and toward the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of next week. The agency said Floridians should have hurricane plans in place.
Ian was expected to become a hurricane Sunday and a major hurricane as soon as late Monday. The storm had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) Saturday night as it swirled about 395 miles southeast of Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands.
It is still not clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida.
In Pinellas Park, near Tampa, people were waiting in line at a Home Depot when it opened at 6 a.m., according to the Tampa Bay Times. Manager Wendy Macrini said the store had sold 600 cases of water by the early afternoon and ran out of generators.
People also were buying up plywood to put over their windows: "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," Matt Beaver, of Pinellas Park, told the Times.
The governor's declaration frees up emergency protective funding and activates members of the Florida National Guard, his office said.
His order stresses that there is risk for a storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.
Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona crashed ashore early Saturday in Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Canada region. The storm washed houses into the sea, tore rooftops off others and knocked out power to the vast majority of two Canadian provinces with more than 500,000 customers affected at the storm's height.
Fiona had transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but it still had hurricane-strength winds and brought drenching rains and huge waves. There was no confirmation of fatalities or injuries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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