With Tampa Bay in its path, Ian strengthens to a hurricane

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for Tampa Bay.

click to enlarge With Tampa Bay in its path, Ian strengthens to a hurricane
Photo via NHC
As expected, Tropical Storm Ian strengthened into a hurricane early Monday morning, and is expected to become a major hurricane, meaning a Category 3 or higher, by later tonight.

According to the 8 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian is now about 275 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba, moving northwest at 14 mph with sustained winds of 75 mph.

As of now, the storm is still on track to hit along the Gulf Coast of Florida, but forecasters are uncertain exactly where it will make landfall. However, most the state, including Tampa Bay, is well within the "cone of uncertainty."

"It should again be stressed that there is still significant uncertainty in the track of Ian, especially in the 3-5 day time frame, and users should not focus on the details of the track forecast at longer time ranges," said the update.

Forecasters predict heavy rain, and possible flooding from Tuesday through Thursday in Tampa Bay, with heavy winds starting Wednesday. 
A Hurricane Watch has been issued  from north of Englewood to the Anclote River, which includes Tampa Bay. This means hurricane conditions (maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) will likely occur within the next two days.

A Storm Surge Watch has also been issued for Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, with 5 to 8 feet of possible surge, says the NHC. Residents of Tampa Bay should expect to see possible storm surge on Wednesday night and early Thursday.

"Ian is expected to be a major hurricane in the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the middle of this week,"said the NHC. "Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of a life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of this week. Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches have been issued for a portion of the west coast of Florida and additional watches may be required later today."