H​urricane Ian has begun its anticipated explosive intensification in the western Caribbean Sea and is a danger to western Cuba before it heads into the Gulf of Mexico for a strike on Florida.

A​ hurricane watch has been issued for parts of Florida’s west coast, including Tampa Bay.

I​an became the fourth hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season early Monday morning as it was centered southwest of Grand Cayman in the western Caribbean Sea.

H​ere’s a look at everything we know right now about Ian.

L​atest Status

Ian is currently centered west of Grand Cayman, moving northwest.

Outer bands of heavy rain are lashing Grand Cayman, where winds have gusted up to 53 mph early Monday morning.

Current Watches, Warnings

A​s mentioned earlier, a hurricane watch has now been issued for parts of Florida’s west coast from north of Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay. This watch means hurricane conditions are possible and is typically issued 48 hours in advance of when tropical storm force winds may begin.

A storm surge watch is also in effect from the Anclote River to the Florida Keys, meaning life-threatening flooding from rising water moving inland from the coastline is possible by Tuesday.

A hurricane warning is in effect for parts of western Cuba, as shown in the map below. This means hurricane conditions are expected, in this case by early Tuesday in western Cuba.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for other parts of western and central Cuba, Grand Cayman, and the lower Florida Keys, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected there Monday night or Tuesday.

After its brush with Grand Cayman, Ian will head for western Cuba tonight into early Tuesday, then in the general direction either of the Florida Panhandle or Florida Peninsula.

Important uncertainty remains about Ian’s track forecast with regard to Florida.

I​f Ian curls sharper toward the east, that could bring it ashore somewhere along the western Florida Peninsula as soon as late Wednesday.

I​f, however, it continues in a more northerly direction, its center may not come ashore in the Big Bend of Panhandle until late Thursday or Friday.

I​an is also expected to slow its forward speed as it nears its landfall, which could prolong and amplify impacts.