Forecasters expect Tropical Storm Ian to strengthen in the central Caribbean over the weekend, and the storm could become the first hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. this year with an anticipated strike on Florida next week.

Ian was named a Tropical storm late Friday in the eastern Caribbean Sea and could become a major hurricane within days, forecasts say.

Here’s what the National Hurricane Center expects in the next few days:

  • The storm should pass southwest of Jamaica on Sunday.
  • It is expected to become a hurricane around Sunday night.
  • Ian’s track will be near the Cayman Islands and Cuba on Monday.
  • Early next week, the Florida Keys and South Florida may see heavy rains. Some flash and urban flooding are possible.

PREVIOUS REPORTS:Tropical Storm Ian forms in Caribbean, could hit Florida as a major hurricane

Florida braces for major hurricane

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for 24 counties and warned on Twitter that while the storm’s track is uncertain, “Floridians should remain vigilant and ensure their households are prepared for a potential impact.”

“While there is the potential for the track to shift through this weekend and into next week, people in Florida should be prepared for a strike by a major hurricane from Tuesday to Thursday next week,” AccuWeather forecasters said.

NASA has also decided to call off a Tuesday launch attempt due to impacts from the storm.

Ian path: Caribbean islands to be hit first

The Cayman Islands are currently under a hurricane watch, and Jamaica is under a tropical storm watch, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Jamaica is expected to see “progressively heavier downpours and increasing winds” Saturday and Sunday, AccuWeather said. Then, the storm is forecast to more directly hit the Cayman Islands and Cuba Sunday through Monday.

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The storm is likely to hit western Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane or stronger, AccuWeather forecasters said. The country may see 6 to 10 inches of rainfall with local maximums up to 14 inches, the National Hurricane Center forecast.

Heavy rain may cause flash flooding and mudslides in Jamaica and Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center. As Ian hurtles through the western Caribbean islands, there is also a risk of widespread power outages and torrential rain, according to AccuWeather.

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

Contributing: Emre Kelly, Florida Today


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