Hurricane Ian updates: Storm about to make landfall in Florida, path moves to NC mountains

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Hurricane Ian is nearing landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm. The latest projected path shows it heading toward the North Carolina mountains Saturday.

Ian was upgraded to a Category 4 storm Wednesday morning. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ian now has top sustained winds of 155 mph and is moving north-northeast at a forward speed of 10 mph.

The major hurricane has prompted warnings of possibly life-threatening storm surge along Florida’s heavily populated Gulf Coast from Bonita Beach to the Tampa Bay region.

Ian is expected to make landfall around noon Wednesday. The center of the storm will then continue through central Florida on Wednesday night through Thursday and emerge briefly off the Florida coast into the western Atlantic Ocean sometime Friday.

By Saturday morning, the storm — which is expected to no longer be hurricane strength — will make another landfall somewhere along the Georgia or South Carolina coast. The system will continue on a northwestern path into the North Carolina mountains.

TIMELINE: Ian in North Carolina

Rain will begin in North Carolina Thursday night or Friday morning. It will continue through Saturday.

Wind from Ian will start picking up Friday and last through Saturday.

Localized flooding could start to happen around midday Friday. This will coincide with heavy bands of rain from the storm system, meaning the flooding is expected to be localized and not widespread.

With all those conditions combining, power outages are most likely to happen Saturday.

All told it looks like Ian could dump between 3-5 inches of rain across North Carolina.

The entire system will be pushing its way out of North Carolina on Sunday. Monday could still have some unsettled weather on the backend of the storm, including scattered showers and cooler temperatures.

Preps underway in North Carolina

Officials in Raleigh and Durham are already planning for any impacts felt from Hurricane Ian. Officials in Raleigh are making sure flood-prone areas are being looked at to deal with any heavy rains. Meanwhile in Durham city leaders are meeting with Duke Energy to talk about their hurricane preparations.

Big Weather’s hurricane emergency kit

Hurricane Ian damage

Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore Wednesday.

Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said “significant wind and storm surge impacts” were occurring Tuesday morning in western Cuba. Ian’s sustained top winds were 125 mph (205 kmh) and as much as 14 feet (4.3 meters) of storm surge was predicted along Cuba’s coast.

RELATED: Hurricane Ian could affect already stressed supply chain

As Ian’s center moved into the Gulf, official media began showing scenes of destruction in the country’s world-famous tobacco belt. The Cubadebate website showed photos of devastation at the Finca Robaina cigar producer, where wood-and-thatch roofs were smashed to the ground, and floodwaters flowed through the town of San Juan y Martinez.

WATCH: First Alert to Hurricane Season

More than 1 million Cubans were without power Tuesday morning, including all of the western provinces of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. There were no reports of deaths.

Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency and mobilized 5,000 Florida National Guard troops, with another 2,000 on standby in neighboring states. Residents rushed to board up their homes, stash precious belongings on upper floors and flee.

“You can’t do anything about natural disasters,” said Vinod Nair, who drove inland from the Tampa area Tuesday with his wife, son, dog and two kittens seeking a hotel in the tourist district of Orlando. “We live in a high risk zone, so we thought it best to evacuate.”

In Key West, the airport closed Tuesday as gusty rains from the storm added to a king tide to swamp the streets, prompting animal rescuers to delay venturing out until after Ian passes. In Orlando, Disney World closed four hotels as a precautionary measure while holding off on any decision to shut down its theme parks. In Florida’s northeastern corner, the U.S. Navy said it planned to move ships and aircraft from its base outside Jacksonville.

Playing it safe, NASA was rolling its moon rocket from the launch pad to its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the test flight. The airports in Tampa and St. Petersburg announced they’ll close Tuesday afternoon.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. FEMA has strategically positioned generators, millions of meals and millions of liters of water, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Damaging winds and flooding are expected across the entire peninsula as Ian moves north, reaching into Georgia, South Carolina and other parts of the southeastern U.S. between Friday and Sunday, the hurricane center said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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