• Hurricane Ian is in the Gulf of Mexico after striking western Cuba.
  • It poses a serious, life-threatening danger to the Florida Peninsula.
  • Storm surge, hurricane, tropical storm alerts have been issued in Florida.
  • Interests in those areas should be implementing their hurricane safety plans.
  • Storm surge and tropical storm alerts also extend to Georgia and South Carolina.

H​urricane Ian is gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico and headed for a dangerous strike on Florida after hammering western Cuba at Category 3 intensity.

I​an rapidly intensified into a major hurricane at 2:30 a.m. EDT and then made landfall in western Cuba two hours later.

A​ny final preparations for Ian in Florida should be rushed to completion today since conditions will deteriorate over the next 12 to 24 hours.

H​ere’s a look at the latest status and forecast.

(​MORE: Live Updates | Preparedness Tips FAQ)

L​atest Status

Ian’s center is over the southeast Gulf of Mexico after raking across western Cuba. Storm surge flooding, heavy rain and damaging winds lashed Cuba’s western provinces late Monday into Tuesday in what was far western Cuba’s first Category 3 landfall in 14 years. Hurricane conditions are still ongoing in western Cuba.

Bands of rain containing gusty winds are lashing South Florida and the Florida Keys. Winds have gusted from 40 to 50 mph in Key West Tuesday.

A​ tornado watch is in effect for South Florida and the Keys until 5 p.m. EDT.

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Current Watches, Warnings

Hurricane warnings (shaded in purple in the map below) are in effect for parts of Florida’s West Coast and some degree inland, including Tampa-St. Petersburg and Fort Myers. This means hurricane conditions are expected by Wednesday morning, with tropical storm winds possibly arriving later Tuesday.

A hurricane warning is also in effect for parts of western Cuba, meaning hurricane conditions are ongoing.

A storm surge warning is also in effect along much of Florida’s west coast, from the mouth of the Suwanee River to the southwesternmost tip of the Peninsula, including Tampa Bay, and also on the Atlantic side of northeast Florida from Marineland to the Georgia state line, meaning life-threatening flooding from rising water moving inland from the coastline is expected.

A storm surge watch extends northward into Taylor County, Florida on the Gulf side and the Georgia and South Carolina coasts on the Atlantic side, as well as the Florida Keys. This means dangerous storm surge is possible in 48 hours or less.

Tropical storm warnings and watches extend inland in the Florida Peninsula, and stretch northeast along and near the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, as you can see in the map below.

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Forecast Path, Intensity

T​here remain uncertainties regarding exactly where and when Ian will move ashore in Florida. But there are trends in this forecast that are important.

F​irst, forecast models are trending a landfall farther south and east along the coast of western Florida.

T​hat would bring Ian’s center onshore in western Florida sooner, possibly sometime later Wednesday or early Thursday.

S​econd, a sooner landfall would mean a stronger hurricane landfall, at least at Category 3 intensity, as wind shear wouldn’t have enough time to degrade it somewhat.

T​his increases the danger for southwest Florida, including Charlotte Harbor and Fort Myers.

T​hat said, a track near the left (west) side of the cone below could still be a near worst-case storm surge scenario for the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater area.

Regardless, Ian will be a large and dangerous major hurricane as it approaches the coast with life-threatening, major impacts.

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Projected Path And Latest Storm Information

(The red-shaded area denotes the potential path of the center of the tropical cyclone. It’s important to note that impacts (particularly heavy rain, high surf, coastal flooding, winds) with any tropical cyclone usually spread beyond its forecast path.

)

Forecast Impacts

S​torm Surge

I​an’s growth in size and its potential to slow down a bit before and after landfall makes it a formidable storm surge threat.

The map below shows possible peak storm surge inundation, if that happens at the time of high tide, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Storm surge flooding could begin in far South Florida late Tuesday, and in the rest of western Florida starting Wednesday.

The peak surge, possibly up to 12 feet, will occur near and south of where the center makes landfall in western Florida later Wednesday or Thursday. That could be anywhere from near the Tampa area to near the Fort Myers area.

Evacuate if you are ordered to do so or you could be putting yourself at serious risk.

Storm surge is also expected on the Atlantic side of northeast Florida and into coastal Georgia and South Carolina beginning late Wednesday or Thursday. Given the wind direction out of the northeast as this may occur, the St. John’s River in northeast Florida may back up and flood.

D​ue to persistent onshore winds even as Ian’s center moves farther away, coastal flooding may last for some time beyond the peak storm surge into Friday or even early Saturday in western Florida and along the areas shown below along the Atlantic Southeast coast.

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W​ind Threat

T​he map below shows the chance of tropical storm-force winds in contours and when they are expected to arrive, according to the National Hurricane Center.

R​emember, impacts with any tropical storm or hurricane typically occur outside the forecast path and will arrive before the center.

Y​ou should have your preparations finished in your area before the times shown on the graphics below, after which deteriorating conditions will make last-minute preparations unsafe.

P​ower outages and downed trees are likely in areas under hurricane and tropical storm warnings. Those outages could last for days in locations that see the strongest winds.

S​tructural damage is also expected, especially near where the core of the hurricane’s center tracks in western and southwestern Florida.

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Timing of Tropical Storm Force Winds

(This map illustrates the timing and potential aerial extent of tropical storm force winds from Ian. While some areas may experience hurricane-force winds, the onset of tropical storm-force winds will make storm preparations more difficult. )

R​ainfall

Heavy rainfall is another dangerous threat from the Florida Peninsula into portions of the Southeast through the weekend.

Here’s the latest rainfall forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

-Florida Keys and South Florida: 4 to 6 inches, with locally up to 8 inches.

-Central West Florida: 12 to 16 inches, with locally up to 24 inches.

-Northeast Florida and the remainder of the central Florida Peninsula: 5 to 10 inches, with locally up to 12 inches.

-​Multi-inch rainfall totals are also possible in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

This heavy rain is likely to trigger flash flooding, especially in urban areas, and river flooding.

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Rainfall Outlook

(This should be interpreted as a broad outlook of where the heaviest rain may fall and may shift based on the forecast path of the tropical cyclone. Higher amounts may occur where bands of rain stall over a period of a few hours. )

Water pushing in from the Gulf could act as a temporary roadblock to rain-swollen rivers that normally drain to the Gulf, compounding flooding along and near the western Florida Gulf Coast.

Ian will then move inland over the Southeast U.S., spreading heavy rain, some winds and the potential for isolated tornadoes later Friday into the weekend.

(​MORE: Hurricane Ian Forecast FAQ)

All interests in the Florida Peninsula and the Southeast should monitor Ian’s forecast and have their hurricane plans ready to implement, if needed. Heed any evacuation orders from local emergency management and make sure you’re prepared for potential long-lived power outages.

C​heck back with us at weather.com for the very latest on this developing situation.

More from weather.com:

12 Things You May Not Know About Your Hurricane Forecast

7 Things Florida Newcomers Should Know About Hurricane Season

T​he Florida Peninsula’s Luck Since Hurricane Irma Won’t Last

The fallen roof of a house is seen in Consolacion del Sur, Cuba, on Sept. 27, 2022, during the passage of Hurricane Ian. - Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba early Tuesday, with the storm prompting mass evacuations and fears it will bring widespread destruction as it heads for Florida. (Adalberto Roque/ AFP via Getty Images)

The fallen roof of a house is seen in Consolacion del Sur, Cuba, on Sept. 27, 2022, during the passage of Hurricane Ian. – Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba early Tuesday, with the storm prompting mass evacuations and fears it will bring widespread destruction as it heads for Florida. (Adalberto Roque/ AFP via Getty Images)

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