TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian gains strength over the Caribbean and is expected to become a major hurricane within days as it moves toward the state.
DeSantis had initially issued the emergency order for two dozen counties on Friday. But he expanded the warning to the entire state, urging residents to prepare for a storm that could ravage large swaths of Florida.
“This storm has the potential to become a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to monitor the potential impacts of this storm.”
President Joe Biden also declared a state of emergency, 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 National Hurricane Center said Ian is expected to strengthen rapidly in the coming days before moving west of 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 and advised residents to check for updates on the storm’s evolving path.
He added that Ian was expected to become a hurricane on Sunday and a major hurricane by late Monday or early Tuesday. Ian on Saturday evening had sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) as it spun about 370 kilometers (230 miles) south of Kingston, Jamaica.
John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami Hurricane Center, said it was still unclear exactly where Ian will affect Florida the most. He said state residents should start preparing for the storm, including stockpiling supplies for possible power outages.
“Too early to say if it’s going to be a Southeast Florida problem or a Central Florida problem or just statewide,” he said. “So right now the really right message for those who live in Florida is that you need to watch the forecast and prepare for the potential impact of this tropical system.”
The governor’s declaration frees up emergency protection funds and activates members of the Florida National Guard, his office said. His order stresses that there is a risk of storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions across the state.
Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona made landfall early Saturday in Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Canada region. The storm swept homes into the sea, ripped off the roofs of others and cut power to the vast majority of two Canadian provinces with more than 500,000 customers affected at the height of the storm.
Fiona had downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm by Friday afternoon, but still had hurricane-force winds and was bringing wet rain and huge waves. There were no confirmed fatalities or injuries.