As Tropical Storm Ian rapidly strengthens over the western Caribbean Sea, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday told Floridians to prepare — and to do it now.
“The path of this is still uncertain,” DeSantis said at a late morning news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “The impacts will be broad throughout the state of Florida.”
The National Hurricane Center’s forecast continues to nudge Ian’s forecast path to the west but warned Sunday that the storm’s long-term track remained largely unpredictable after it enters the Gulf of Mexico.
“From the Tampa Bay area all the way up to Escambia County along Florida’s Gulf Coast, you could potentially see it make landfall,” DeSantis said.
He encouraged Floridians to prepare for heavy rains, high winds and storm surge, making sure they had necessary food, water, medication and gas.
“Make preparations now,” he said.
DeSantis on Saturday declared a state of emergency for all of Florida, expanding an emergency order he issued Friday for two dozen counties. He also mobilized the Florida National Guard to assist with storm prep and recovery.
At Sunday’s midday press conference, he added emergency refill of prescriptions had been authorized for 30 days and that Florida Department of Emergency Management is working with all fuel and utility partners throughout the state.
“Listen to your local officials and head those warnings,” he said.
Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties leaders have declared a local state of emergency.
DeSantis also addressed the state’s newcomers directly: “For those folks who are new to the state who have not experienced this yet, I know we’ve got a lot of people that have moved in to the state of Florida, just make sure you make your preparations.”
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie added that the division is currently holding twice-daily calls with all 67 state counties to coordinate proactive action.
To date, the division has received 122 resource requests associated with Tropical Storm Ian from county partners, such as trucks of food and water, generators, pumps and emergency personnel, he said.
“By today we will have loaded 360 trailers with more than two million meals and more than one million gallons of water to be ready to be sent into impacted areas,” he said.
Questions remain, including when, where and how strong the storm will be at the time of landfall.
“While the models agree on the overall scenario, there are still significant differences regarding the exact track of the storm, especially after 72 hours,” the National Hurricane Center said in its Sunday morning advisory.
The American model shows the storm moving west into the Florida Panhandle, while the European model shows the storm making landfall in west-central Florida. The hurricane center’s current forecast track for the storm splits the difference.
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