Miami, Sep 25 (EFE).- Tropical Storm Ian is forecast to become a hurricane early Monday morning and to increase in strength to a major storm before moving west of Cuba, as it continues to move northwest south of the communist island at about 12 miles (19 kilometers) per hour.
The 2 pm bulletin from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center on Sunday said that Ian will begin to strengthen rapidly this evening and is expected to bring heavy winds and seas to western Cuba.
Still a tropical storm at this point, Ian is located about 265 mi. (425 km) southwest of Grand Cayman Island and 540 mi. (865 km) southeast of Cuba’s western tip and is packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph), although gusts can be stronger.
The NHC issued a hurricane warning for Grand Cayman, the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, while a tropical storm warning was issued for the provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque and Matanzas.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
The storm system is predicted to make a turn to the northwest on Sunday night followed by movement to the north-northwest on Monday, a track that will continue on Tuesday as the storm slowly begins to increase in speed along its trajectory.
The expectation is that Ian’s center will pass southwest of Jamaica on Sunday afternoon and near or to the west of the Cayman Islands early on Monday.
Ian will move near or over the western part of Cuba on Monday night and early Tuesday before entering the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
According to the NHC’s predicted track for Ian, the storm is presently expected to strike Florida’s western coast somewhere between Tampa and Pensacola on Friday.
Rainfall in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands is expected to total 3 to 6 inches, with certain spots receiving up to 8 in., while Western Cuba is expected to receive 6 – 10 in. with up to 16 in. possible in certain locations.
The Florida Keys and the southern and central part of the Florida Peninsula are expected to receive 2 – 4 inches and up to 6 in. starting on Monday and lasting through Wednesday morning, while heavy rainfall may also affect North Florida, the Florida Panhandle and the southeastern US on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The storm is predicted to strengthen rapidly on Sunday night and to become a hurricane early on Monday, strengthening further to become a “major” storm on Monday night or early on Tuesday.
A hurricane or tropical storm “warning” means that such conditions are expected within 36 hours, while a “watch” means that storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.