Update | Florida emergency declared as Tropical Storm Ian strengthens
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian gains strength over the Caribbean and is forecast to become a major hurricane within days as it tracks 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 lash large swaths of Florida.
“This storm has the potential to strengthen into 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 track potential impacts of this storm.”
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 a risk for a storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian is forecast to rapidly strengthen in the coming days 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 and advised residents to monitor updates of the storm's evolving path.
It added that Ian was forecast to become a hurricane on Sunday and a major hurricane by late Monday or early Tuesday.
Ian on Saturday evening had top sustained winds of 45 mph as it swirled about 230 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica.
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