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Tropical Storm Ian could be Category 4 hurricane when in Gulf of Mexico; see latest forecast

Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center
Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Ian formed in the Caribbean late Friday, one that could reach Category 4 hurricane strength as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico toward the Gulf Coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.

The latest track from NHC on Sunday morning shows this eventual hurricane being a problem for Florida, though forecasters said Sunday the track has continued to shift west compared to earlier forecasts.

"... there is still significant uncertainty in the long-range track forecast of Ian, and future adjustments to this portion of the forecast will likely be required," NHC said.

Hannah Lisney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Slidell, said Louisiana residents should stay alert and monitor the forecast for changes, and prepare their hurricane plans in case the storm moves west.

“Shifts in the track and the cone are still possible at this point,” Lisney said.

Here’s what we know about the tropical storm in the Caribbean as of 10 a.m. Sunday.

Tropical Storm Ian

Forecasters said around 10 a.m. Sunday that the system was about 300 miles south southeast of Grand Cayman and 570 miles southeast of western Cuba.

The storm, currently in the Caribbean, has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. It's moving west northwest, toward the Gulf, at 14 mph.

Ian will begin moving northwest today as it passes southwest of Jamaica. On Monday, the system will move near or passed the Cayman Islands before moving over western Cuba on Monday night and arriving in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. At that point, it will begin moving north.

The tropical storm is expected to significantly strengthen over the next couple of days, according to forecasters. NHC said Ian could become a hurricane by tonight or early Monday and grow to a major hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday.

According to the latest track, Ian will stay at major hurricane strength until Thursday, and arrive at Florida's panhandle late Thursday or early Friday potentially as a Category 2 hurricane.

Forecasters said the track three to five days out still remains uncertain, with some models showing the storm striking the Gulf Coast as far west as the Florida-Alabama border, and others showing it making landfall near central Florida.

Watches, Warnings and Conditions

Because Ian is expected to intensify quickly as it moves near land, there were multiple warnings in effect in preparation of the system's arrival.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Grand Cayman
  • Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas

Forecasters said Ian will bring plenty of rain, strong winds and storm surge to parts of the Caribbean and Florida.

Ahead of the storm's arrival, the Florida Keys and southern and central Florida could see 2 to 4 inches of rain, with local maximum amounts of 6 inches, through Wednesday.

North Florida, the panhandle and other parts of the southeast U.S. will likely see heavy rainfall beginning Thursday.

Forecasters warned of urban, street and river flooding as a possibility across Florida.

See the list of conditions expected here.

Hurricane Season 2022

Following two hectic hurricane seasons, particularly for Louisiana, meteorologists expect 2022 to be a busy year for the tropics as well, despite a slow start.

As of Sunday, forecasters were also monitoring another tropical storm and a system with a low chance of development. Post-tropical cyclone Hermine's last advisory was released at 7 a.m. Sunday by NHC.

Courtesy of National Hurricane Center
Courtesy of National Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Gaston was about 420 miles west of Faial Island in the Central Azores on Sunday morning. There were no watches or warnings in effect for this system. Gaston is expected to weaken over the next few days and become a post-tropical cyclone Monday.

A system located several hundred miles from the Cabo Verde Islands in the central Atlantic is being monitored by forecasters, who said Sunday that development will likely be slow. Conditions for development could improve by mid-week as the disturbance slowly moves north. As of 7 a.m. Sunday, it has a 20% chance of development in the next five days.

Despite a slow start to the season, hurricane forecasters still predict 14 to 21 named storms this season, including three to six major hurricanes, which would have wind speeds at 111 mph or higher.

So far, names Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona and Gaston, Hermine and Ian have been used.Julia is the next available name.

Unlike in years past, when forecasters had to pull from the Greek alphabet after all available storm names were used up, NHC will no longer use names like Zeta or Delta. Instead, forecasters will use names from a supplemental list.

Storms are categorized per the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: Tropical depression (below 38 mph), Tropical Storm (39-73 mph), Category 1 (74-95 mph), Category 2 (96-110 mph), Category 3 (111-129 mph), Category 4 (130-156 mph) and Category 5 (more than 157 mph).

For more information on the tropical depression and other disturbances monitored by NHC,click here.

Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.