Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late Friday declared a state of emergency for 24 counties as Tropical Storm Ian, which is forecasted to strengthen into a hurricane, formed over the Caribbean. Photo courtesy of NHC

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late Friday declared a state of emergency for 24 counties as Tropical Storm Ian, which is forecasted to strengthen into a hurricane, formed over the Caribbean. Photo courtesy of NHC

Sept. 24 (UPI) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late Friday declared a state of emergency for 24 counties as Tropical Storm Ian, which is forecasted to strengthen into a hurricane, formed over the Caribbean.

The storm, formerly referred to as Tropical Depression Nine, had led forecasters with AccuWeather earlier on Friday to warn of an increased threat of a major hurricane that could hit Florida next week.

“Today, I signed an Executive Order issuing a State of Emergency due to the threat of Tropical Depression 9,” DeSantis said in a statement.

“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations. We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts of this storm.”

In its 11 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Ian was about 385 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and is expected to pass southwest of the Caribbean nation on Sunday. Ian is currently moving northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained wind speeds of about 40 mph.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Jamaica, which is expected to receive 4 to 8 inches of rain that could case flash flooding and mudslides.

“A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions pose a possible threat to Jamaica within the next 48 hours,” reads a statement from Jamaica’s Meteorological Service Division shared on Twitter by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“All small craft operators including fishers from the cays and banks should by now have completed all the necessary safety precautions and are advised to remain in safe harbor until all warning messages have been lifted.”

After passing by Jamaica, Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it passes “near or over” the Cayman Islands – dumping 4 to 8 inches of rain from Sunday night into early Monday. The storm is currently about 680 miles from Grand Cayman Island.

“On the forecast track, the center of Ian is forecast to move across the central Caribbean Sea through Saturday, pass southwest of Jamaica on Sunday, and pass,” the NHC said in its update.

Ian will then approach western Cuba on Monday, which could receive as much as 14 inches of rain in some places, according to the NHC.

Heavy rains in the Florida Keys and south Florida are expected to begin as early as Monday, causing “limited flash and urban flooding.”

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