Hurricane Ian became a major Category 3 storm early Tuesday and will continue to strengthen as it approaches Florida, National Hurricane Center forecasters say.
Ian made landfall at about 4:30 a.m. ET Tuesday in western Cuba just southwest of the town of La Coloma in Pinar del Río province, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, U.S. officials said.
The entire island was without power Tuesday evening because of infrastructure damage, the country's electricity service said. Crews were working to restore power, which the agency should begin to return overnight and into Wednesday.
The hurricane, which was about 110 miles from Naples, Florida, had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and was moving northeast at 10 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 p.m. update.
By late evening, winds were beginning to whip the Florida Keys, where a 52 mph gust was recorded at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport.
The latest on Hurricane Ian
- Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba as a major hurricane early Tuesday; by evening, the entire island was without power.
- Ian is likely to continue to grow stronger as it travels over the warm Gulf of Mexico and reach top winds of 130 mph as it approaches the southwest coast of Florida.
- Tropical storm-force winds have reached Florida's southern peninsula.
- About 2.5 million residents are under some type of evacuation order in Florida.
- Ian will slow to 3 to 4 mph Thursday and Friday over or near Florida's west coast, prolonging storm surge, wind and flash flooding impacts.
- Georgia's governor has declared a state of emergency.
The center of Ian could strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it continues to move over the gulf, NBC News forecasters said.
Ian will continue to intensify today through Wednesday as it approaches the west coast of Florida on Wednesday "as an extremely dangerous major hurricane," according to the National Hurricane Center.
Models show the storm landing somewhere between Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. The system is forecast to slow down to as low as 3 to 4 mph, prolonging the impacts of heavy rain, strong wind and storm surge.
Tornadoes over the Florida peninsula are also possible over the next three days.
Storm surge can also affect Florida's east coast, where a warning has been issued from Marineland to St. Marys River, along Georgia's coast, according to the hurricane center.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency, saying Ian could bring several feet of storm surge. Charlotte Harbor may get 12 feet of storm surge, and in the Tampa Bay area, 7 feet is expected, according to forecasters.
"What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential," he said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "That storm surge can be life-threatening."
DeSantis encouraged residents to heed evacuation orders in place from Pinellas County to the Fort Myers area. About 2.5 million residents are under some type of evacuation orders, he said.
Parts of the state may also be without power anywhere from three days to a week, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said at the news conference.
Georgia and South Carolina may also get some impact from Ian.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for all counties Tuesday that will go into effect 7 a.m. Thursday and expire midnight Friday.
As the storm headed for Florida, oil companies evacuated workers from deep-water platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and airports in Tampa, Orlando and Pinellas County in Florida announced that they would close Tuesday and Wednesday. American Airlines announced travel waivers for people flying to or out of 20 airports in Florida and the Caribbean.
Residents on Florida's Gulf Coast stocked up on food and prepared with sandbags and plywood for their windows. Hundreds of thousands of people were under evacuation orders.
“This storm is trending to slow down, which means it could potentially sit on top of us for 47 hours,” said Cathie Perkins, the director of Pinellas County Emergency Management, NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa reported.
“That’s a lot of rain, and it’s not going to be able to drain out quickly,” she said.
Steve McClure, 54, was headed to his parents' home in a nearby county.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially with the track of the hurricane consistently changing,” McClure said.