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BREAKING #HurricaneIan Report: Florida Braces Itself for Category 4 as People Prepare for Worst in Tampa Bay

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#AceWeatherDesk – Breaking #HurricaneIan: Florida braces for category four storm: Millions of Florida residents are bracing for life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds, and flooding as the hurricane racing towards its shores intensify to a category four.

By Holly Honderich & Alexandra Ostasiewicz & Charley Adams
in Washington, Florida and London

WATCH: Waves crash on Florida shore as hurricane approaches

#HurricaneIan which has already thrashed western Cuba will reach Florida later on Wednesday: The storm, with maximum sustained winds rising to near 250 km/h (155 mph), is “rapidly intensifying”, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

It is due to hit the Tampa Bay region:

The area is among the most vulnerable places in the US for severe flooding – and if Ian continues on its expected path, this would be the region’s first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“It’s been around 100 years since Tampa had a direct hit. They’ve just been lucky for a long time,” said Erik Salna, associate director of the International Hurricane Research Center. 

Low elevation, rising sea levels, and a large population increase the risk of a catastrophic tidal surge. The Tampa area has all three, according to Mr Salna. 

If hit directly, the region could be “unrecognisable” in the next couple of days, he said. “The potential is there.”

Hurricane Ian was about 75 miles (125km) off the coast at 05:00 local time (09:00 GMT) when the NHC announced it had become a category four storm, as reported by air force hurricane hunters.

There are five category levels, with Ian currently standing at the second highest. Category four storms pack winds between 209 to 251 km/h (130 to 156 mph). The fifth storm level equates to winds measuring 252 km/h (157mph) or higher. 

The area at highest risk spread from Naples to the Sarasota region, said the NHC, adding that local residents should listen to officials and follow any evacuation orders. 

Tornados have already been seen in southern Florida, the National Weather Service said, as Ian approached the coast. Conditions were “rapidly deteriorating” along the south west coast of Florida at 06:00 local time (11:00 GMT), the NHC reported. 

In a tweet, the center said a buoy located north-north west of the storm’s eye had recently measured a sustained wind of 106 km/h (66 mph) and a weather flow station near Sanibel Island recorded a sustained wind of 63 km/h (39 mph). 

Ian is likely to lose speed as it nears Florida, effectively prolonging the storm’s effects and threatening up to 20in (1.6ft) of rain in some areas. 

And if it does hit Tampa, it will strike one of the state’s most densely populated areas. 

Over the last 50 years, development has surged along the Tampa region’s nearly 700 miles (1,1200km) of shoreline, with people and buildings scattered along the mostly low-lying beach. 

“We’ve moved toward the coast, we’ve moved toward the water. This is, in its own way, a human nature trainwreck,” said Richard Olson, director of the extreme events institute at Florida International University (FIU). 

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 28 September
Residents are buying supplies as they brace for the storm
#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Sept.28: 2022: