Braces for Florida Italia, which is expected to hit as a hurricane

Tropical Storm Italia, which formed on Sunday, is expected to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida’s Gulf Coast on Tuesday, making it a “very significant and impactful hurricane,” forecasters said.

National Hurricane Center deputy director Jamie Rome said winds of 100 mph were expected. Update Sunday evening.

“This storm may require evacuations later today or tomorrow,” said Mr. Rome said.

“The risks will extend completely beyond the cone,” he added, referring to forecast maps showing the storm’s likely path. “Don’t just focus on the cone to determine your risk.”

Italia, the latest named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, threatens to bring heavy rain to Georgia and the Carolinas. forecasters said.

A hurricane watch was issued for a large area of ​​West Florida, stretching from Englewood to Indian Pass and including Tampa Bay, officials said.

A tropical storm watch was issued from the Gulf Coast south of Englewood, about 80 miles south of Tampa, to Sokoloski, 65 miles south of Fort Myers, while a storm surge watch was in effect from Sokoloski to Indian Pass. .

Florida Division of Emergency Management Told the residents If an emergency evacuation order is issued, their gas tanks must be half full.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis He signed the executive order on Saturday A state of emergency was declared in 33 districts to weather the storm.

“If you’re in the path of this storm, you should expect power outages, so please prepare for that,” he said Sunday. “If you are power dependent — especially elderly or with medical needs — please plan to go to a shelter.”

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The government mobilized 1,100 members of the National Guard with 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft ready for rescue operations. Power companies will be on standby from Monday.

Hurricane Center is a specific one Advice On Sunday, Tuesday through Wednesday, parts of Florida’s west coast, the Florida Panhandle and south Georgia could receive up to six inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches.

The Carolinas are expected to see heavy rain Wednesday through Thursday, the center said.

“Rainfall could lead to flash and urban flooding and landslides across western Cuba,” the center said. “Scattered flash and urban flooding is expected across parts of the West Coast of Florida, the Florida Panhandle and parts of the southeastern United States Tuesday through Thursday.”

On Sunday night, a hurricane warning was issued for the city of Pinar del Rio, a two-hour drive west of the Cuban capital, Havana. The Cuban government upgraded the Tropical Storm Watch for the Isle of Jude to a Tropical Storm Warning.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Dry Tortugas Islands, which were previously under a watch advisory, and a watch is in effect for the Lower Florida Keys West west of the Seven Mile Bridge, the center said Sunday night.

A combination of high tide and storm surge is expected to bring water levels up to 11 feet along some parts of the Florida coast, forecasters said.

The storm hit 60 mph about 145 miles south of the western tip of Cuba on Sunday night. It moved into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday as it approached Florida.

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Florida’s west coast has been no stranger to hurricanes over the past several years.

Hurricane Ian in 2022 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 left the Caribbean islands with strong winds and storm surges and rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico before striking Florida as major hurricanes and causing extensive damage.

Michael hit the Panhandle, and Ian hit the southwest edge of the state.

Other storms, such as Eta in 2020 and Elsa in 2021, also reached hurricane strength in the Gulf but weakened before making landfall on Florida’s Big Bend coast.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30.

Franklin became the second Atlantic hurricane of the season on Saturday. Tropical Storm Emily was downgraded to a post-tropical storm on Monday after forming the day before, and Kurt was also short-lived. Tropical Storm Harold formed in the Gulf of Mexico early Tuesday and made landfall in Texas by morning.

Dawn, which briefly formed into a hurricane in July, was the first Atlantic hurricane of the season.

There were 14 named storms last year, and after two very busy Atlantic hurricane seasons, forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (There were 30 named storms in 2020.)

There is a consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful due to climate change. Although there aren’t many named storms overall, the potential for major hurricanes is increasing.

Climate change also affects the amount of rain storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can receive more rain, as Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, with some areas dropping more than 40 inches in 48 hours.

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Orlando Mayorquin Contributed report.

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