As Hurricane Ian intensifies and approaches the state’s Gulf Coast, South Florida should expect heavy rainfall with risks for severe weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, forecasters said.
The National Weather Service in Miami has issued a tornado watch for South Florida, including the town of Palm Beach, through 5 p.m. Tuesday.
A tropical storm watch, meanwhile, was issued for portions of South Florida including all of Palm Beach County. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible somewhere within the watch area, generally within the next 48 hours.
Town Manager Kirk Blouin said Tuesday the town was keeping an eye on the storm and was prepared for flooding or other severe weather conditions should they occur. But there were no plans to close town facilities.
“What we anticipate here is a rain event,” Blouin said. “But storms are always unpredictable, so we are closely monitoring it.”
Hurricane Ian made landfall over western Cuba at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday as a 125-mph Category 3 hurricane. It was moving north over the Gulf of Mexico, where it was expected to strengthen throughout the day and reach Category 4, packing winds of 140 mph, this evening.
The storm’s path had shifted eastward, with landfall forecast for late afternoon or evening Wednesday between Fort Myers and Tampa. About 2.5 million Floridians are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Tropical storm-force winds (39-73 mph) may arrive across portions of Southeast Florida as early as Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service said. The winds are likely to come in gusts, with the possibility of sustained winds of 39 mph or above early Wednesday.
A flood watch remained in effect Tuesday for all of the Florida peninsula.
Palm Beach County schools and district offices will be closed on Wednesday as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida.
Blouin said there were no plans to shut down construction on the island. Yard trash pickup was on a regular schedule.
“Right now, things are looking favorable,” he said.
As a precaution, hurricane preparations began last week, he said. Fuel has been topped off in town vehicles, and generators and storm and sanitary pump stations have been checked to make sure they are operational.
Crews are on standby, water levels are being monitored at the inlets, and “chainsaws are ready to go, if necessary,” he said.
In a hurricane update posted on the town’s website Tuesday, the town advised the public to remain cautious on local roadways.
“Heavy rainfall is likely to be the main threat, with gusty winds, rip currents, and waterspouts/tornadoes also possible,” the town said in the update.
Residents were advised to remain cautious and stay tuned to local media outlets as Hurricane Ian approaches the state.