TAMPA, Fla. — In less than two days, Hurricane Ian may make landfall in Florida before driving further north into the southeastern United States.

On Tuesday morning, Ian strengthened to a Category 3 major hurricane before making its first landfall on the western tip of Cuba around 4:30 a.m. 

The storm is not expected to change much as it crosses Cuba, bringing 125 mph winds and gusts up to 155 mph, but it will likely pick up power before reaching Florida.

“Ian will return to open water later today when it is expected to quickly strengthen to a Category 4 storm with forecast sustained winds of 140 mph,” according to FOX8 Meteorologist Emily Byrd. “Hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend 115 miles from the center of the storm.”

By Wednesday night or Thursday morning, Ian is expected to make landfall on the west coast of Florida.

Storm surge, paired with the tide, could cause several feet of flooding in parts of Florida. If peak surge hits at the same time as high tide, water could reach:

  • 5 to 10 feet from the Anclote River to Englewood, including Tampa Bay
  • 5 to 8 feet from Suwannee River to Anclote River
  • 5 to 8 feet from the middle of Longboat Key, Florida, to Englewood, Florida
  • 4 to 7 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor
  • 3 to 5 feet from Bonita Beach to East Cape Sable
  • 2 to 4 feet from the Flagler/Volusia county line to Altamaha Sound, including St. Johns River
  • 2 to 4 feet from East Cape Sable to Card Sound Bridge, including Florida Bay
  • 2 to 4 feet from Aucilla River to Suwannee River
  • 2 to 4 feet from Florida Keys, including the Dry Tortugas
  • 1 to 3 feet from Indian Pass, Florida, to Aucilla River

Western Cuba could see water levels rise by as much as 9 to 14 feet above normal tide levels.

Tornadoes are possible today through Wednesday across the Florida Keys and the southern and central Florida Peninsula, NHC reports. And swells are “likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

After making landfall, the storm will work its way to the north-northeast, approaching Orlando and weakening as it moves over land to a Category 1, Byrd said.

By Thursday, Ian may begin to bring winds and later rain into North Carolina.

“Clouds thicken Thursday, and it will become quite breezy as the remnants of Hurricane Ian make its way northward,” Byrd said. “Highs are going to stay in the mid-to-upper 60s Thursday.

“Friday is going to be wet and windy with highs in the mid-60s. There will be periods of heavy rain Friday night and Saturday with scattered showers and thunderstorms lingering into Sunday and Monday.”