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    Hurricane Ian update – live: Cuba hit by total blackout as 2 million evacuate in Florida

    Florida bracing for Hurricane Ian

    Two people have died and the power supply has been severed to Cuba’s entire population of 11 million after Hurricane Ian hammered one of the island’s main power plants.

    The hurricane is now gathering strength and bearing down on Florida as the state races to prepare for a “life-threatening” storm expected to pass over the Florida Keys.

    More than 2.5 million Floridians have been placed under evacuation orders or warnings with the sprawling storm on track to make landfall as a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane later today.

    Governor Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to heed warnings to evacuate to higher ground due to the potential for “catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge”.

    He said 8,000 people were without power in southeastern Florida and that 30,000 state personnel were on alert to help respond to outages.

    “This is a lot of nasty weather that we’re in store for over the next few days,” he said.

    The most recent models have the hurricane projected to make landfall south of Tampa Bay, where storm surges could reach up to 12 ft (3.7 metres). Up to 24 inches (61cm) of rain is expected in some areas and wind speeds of 130 miles per hour (209km/h).

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    Watch as massive waves pummel Key West

    Images and videos from the Florida Keys are showing significant flooding as the storm was passing through the islands off the southern tip of the state ahead of the expected landfall on Wednesday.

    Hundreds of Florida residents are evacuating their homes, stashing precious belongings on upper floors and fleeing from oncoming Hurricane Ian.

    Ian is expected to grow wider and stronger as its forward movement slowed over the Gulf.

    A hurricane warning covering roughly 220 miles (350 km) of the state included Fort Myers as well as Tampa and St Petersburg, which could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

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    Biden discusses preparations with governor

    US president Joe Biden has spoke to Florida governor Ron DeSantis to discuss the steps the federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Twitter, adding the two “committed to continued close coordination.”

    Mr Biden said that he has approved an emergency assistance request from Florida governor Ron DeSantis and that the administration has been positioning supplies and personnel in recent days, including 3.5 million litres of water, 3.7 million meals and 700 generators.

    “Our safety is more important than anything,” Mr Biden said. “Our hearts are with everyone who will feel the effects of this storm, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”

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    When hurricanes and Congress collide

    The House January 6 select committee will postpone the hearing scheduled for Wednesday on account of Hurricane Ian, The Independent has learned.

    A source with knowledge of the panel’s internal deliberations said the postponement of what would be the committee’s ninth public session will allow one of the nine select committee members, Representative Stephanie Murphy, to tend to any matters that arise in her Florida district due to the approaching storm.

    In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, select committee chairman Representative Bennie Thompson and the panel’s vice-chair, Representative Liz Cheney, said: “In light of Hurricane Ian bearing down on parts of Florida, we have decided to postpone tomorrow’s proceedings. We’re praying for the safety of all those in the storm’s path”.

    More from Washington in our story.

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    Warnings in Florida for ‘life-threatening storm surge’ and ‘catastrophic flooding’

    The National Hurricane Center has issued a warning for a ‘life-threatening storm surge’ for Florida’s west coast. The region from Naples to Sarasota is at the highest risk, it said.

    A warning is in place for hurricane-force winds for southwest and west-central Florida beginning on Wednesday morning.

    Heavy rainfall will cause “catastrophic flooding” across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida and parts of Georgia and Carolina.

    Heavy rainfall will cause catastrophic flooding across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida and parts of Georgia and Carolina.

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    Scores of flights delayed as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida

    Tampa Bay International Airport announced that it would be shutting on Tuesday afternoon as Hurricane Ian moves towards Florida.

    The major airport, which has 280 daily flights, will suspend operations at 5pm amid the threat of the Category 3 storm which is set to bring more than 100mph winds, severe downpours and “life-threatening” coastal surge to the west coast of Florida.

    Governor Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to heed warnings to evacuate and seek higher ground due to potential for “catstrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge”.

    The most recent weather models have Hurricane Ian projected to make landfall south of Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast.

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    Entire Cuba without power after hurricane knocks out electric grid

    Cuba is facing a complete power blackout after Hurricane Ian slammed into the island’s western tip.

    The country’s 11 million people are without power after the electrical system suffered a total collapse and one of its power plants could not be restored, officials at Cuba’s Electric Union said.

    Power was initially knocked out to about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but later the entire grid collapsed.

    The head of the electrical energy authority said on Cuban state television on Tuesday that the island-wide blackout happened due to a breakdown of the national electrical system.

    The Category 3 storm on the island’s western end is now barreling towards Florida.

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    Disney parks rush to ready for Hurricane Ian

    Disney has announced that it’s shutting down some operations as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida.

    “Walt Disney World Resort is preparing for necessary operational adjustments based on the latest information from the National Weather Service,” the company said in a statement posted to its site.

    The water park Blizzard Beach is currently closed and another water park, Typhoon Lagoon, will close temporarily on Wednesday and Thursday.

    The Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will temporarily close from Wednesday until Friday due to the weather, Disney said.

    Read Gustaf Kilander’s full report.

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    Hurricane Ian is another sign of climate change’s impacts

    Hurricane Ian officially formed as a Category 1 storm on Monday, bearing down on the Cayman Islands and Cuba as Floridians were warned to “be ready” for extreme weather in the coming days.

    After months with few notable storms, the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is in full swing. As Florida prepares for the incoming weather event, Atlantic Canada is recovering from post-tropical cyclone Fiona which made landfall in Nova Scotia early on Saturday.

    As the world’s average temperature increases and sea levels rise, hurricanes are expected to become stronger — and the damage more catastrophic, scientists say.

    Research on 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in Texas found that planetary warming made rainfall during the days-long deluge 15 per cent more intense. Another study on 2019’s Typhoon Hagbis in Japan found that the climate crisis added at least $4bn in additional damages.

    Ethan Freedman with the full story.

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    What does a hurricane look like from space?

    Satellites are capturing the enormous Hurricane Ian from space as the Category 3 storm barrels towards the Florida coast.

    The images, released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed tightly packed storm bands rotating north as the eye passed over western Cuba on Tuesday morning.

    As of midday Tuesday (EST), the storm was moving at 10mph over Havana in the direction of Key West with maximum sustained winds of about 115mph.

    Cuba was lashed with heavy rain and winds overnight, bringing the threat of coastal surges, flash flooding and landslides.

    Louise Boyle has the details.

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    Hurricane Ian to bring ‘life-threatening’ storm surge across Florida

    Hurrice Ian is expected to bring “life-threatening” storm surge waters across the west coast of Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    Just south of Tampa will get the worst of it, with surge levels reaching up to 12 feet.

    The rest of the state won’t be spared however. Large parts of the Florida coast, where major cities often lie at or below sea level, will face surges of up to five or six feet.

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