The start of hurricane season may have been somewhat delayed this year, but it appears to have finally arrived as the first major named storm of 2022 is barreling straight toward Florida’s Gulf coast.
In anticipation of that storm’s impact, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has already declared a statewide emergency and is overseeing preparations for the state’s response and recovery, local NBC affiliate WFLA reported Saturday.
Currently dubbed Tropical Storm Ian, it is expected to strengthen into a hurricane at some point on Sunday, though it still remains unclear exactly when and where it will eventually make landfall in Florida in the coming days.
State of emergency declared
On Friday, Gov. DeSantis issued an executive order that declared a state of emergency for 24 counties in the Sunshine State for what was at that time labeled as Tropical Depression Nine, and also made a request that the federal government also make a pre-landfall Emergency Declaration to ensure all appropriate assistance and resources were in place prior to the storm’s arrival.
By Saturday, the governor issued another executive order that amended Friday’s order and expanded the declared state of emergency to include all 67 counties statewide after TD Nine grew strong enough to be named TS Ian.
Also on Saturday, President Joe Biden approved the request from DeSantis for a pre-landfall emergency declaration and authorized both the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to pre-position appropriate resources, coordinate the disaster response, and take whatever other actions would be deemed necessary in the coming days to extend relief to those in the storm’s path.
DeSantis personally overseeing emergency preparedness efforts
Gov. DeSantis on Sunday further issued an update that detailed some of the myriad preparations the state had made in advance of Ian’s arrival, including activating the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee along with 2,500 National Guard troops, in addition to other preparedness efforts.
“We are continuing to monitor Tropical Storm Ian,” DeSantis told reporters Sunday at the Emergency Operations Center, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “[It] will become a hurricane very soon, within the next 24 hours, and a major hurricane very soon.”
“It’s important to point out to folks that the path of this is still uncertain,” he continued. “Even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there’s going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state. You’re going to have wind. You’re going to have water. There could be flooding on the east coast of Florida as a result of this. It’s a big storm.”
DeSantis also expressed his appreciation and thanks to the Biden White House for so quickly approving his request for a federal emergency declaration in anticipation of the approaching storm.
Forecasts and predictions
According to The Weather Channel on Sunday afternoon, Tropical Storm Ian was located in the western Caribbean Sea and had already begun to track toward the northwest, where it was expected to directly impact the Cayman Islands and western Cuba before entering the Gulf of Mexico and then hit Florida, though it is still unclear if the storm will make landfall on the state’s panhandle or peninsula.
Forecasts indicate that Ian could be upgraded to a hurricane by Sunday evening or Monday morning, and could grow in intensity to become a Category Three or Four storm by the time it reaches the Gulf around Tuesday, with landfall in Florida predicted to occur on Thursday or Friday, though numerous factors are at play in how Ian tracks over the coming days.