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Ian strengthens, poses major threat to Florida; Fiona hits Canada

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday as Tropical Storm Ian gained strength over the Caribbean and was forecast to become a major hurricane soon as it tracked toward the state.

DeSantis had initially issued the emergency order for two dozen counties on Friday. But he expanded the warning to the entire state, urging residents to prepare for a storm that could lash large swaths of Florida.

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

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency for the state, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida due to the storm.

The National Hurricane Center said Ian was forecast to strengthen before moving over western Cuba and toward the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of next week. The agency said Floridians should have hurricane plans in place and advised residents to monitor updates of the storm’s evolving path.

Ian was expected to become a hurricane Sunday and a major hurricane as soon as late Monday. The storm had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) Saturday night as it swirled about 395 miles (630 kilometers) southeast of Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the island, and hurricane watches were issued for western Cuba.

“Ian forecast to begin rapidly intensifying,” the hurricane center reported.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center, said it wasn’t yet clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida. He said the state’s residents should begin preparing for the storm, including gathering supplies for potential power outages.

“Too soon to say if it’s going to be a southeast Florida problem or a central Florida problem or just the entire state,” he said. “So at this point really the right message for those living in Florida is that you have to watch forecasts and get ready and prepare yourself for potential impact from this tropical system.”

In Pinellas Park, near Tampa, people were waiting in line at a Home Depot when it opened at 6 a.m., the Tampa Bay Times reported. Manager Wendy Macrini said the store had sold 600 cases of water by the early afternoon and ran out of generators.

People also were buying up plywood to put over their windows: “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” Matt Beaver, of Pinellas Park, told the Times.

The governor’s declaration frees up emergency protective funding and activates members of the Florida National Guard, his office said. His order stresses that there is risk for a storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.

Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona crashed ashore early Saturday in Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Canada region. The storm washed houses into the sea, tore rooftops off others and knocked out power to the vast majority of two Canadian provinces with more than 500,000 customers affected at the storm’s height.

Fiona had transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but it still had hurricane-strength winds and brought drenching rains and huge waves. There was no confirmation of fatalities or injuries.

Fiona pounds Canada

Fiona washed houses into the sea, tore the roofs off others and knocked out power to the vast majority of two Canadian provinces as it made landfall before dawn Saturday as a big, powerful post-tropical cyclone.

Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but it still had hurricane-strength winds and brought drenching rains and huge waves. There was no confirmation of fatalities or injuries.

Ocean waves pounded the town of Channel-Port Aux Basques on the southern coast of Newfoundland, where entire structures were washed into the sea. Mayor Brian Button said Saturday over social media that people were being evacuated to high ground as winds knocked down power lines.

“I’m seeing homes in the ocean. I’m seeing rubble floating all over the place. It’s complete and utter destruction. There’s an apartment that is gone,” René J. Roy, a resident of Channel-Port Aux Basques and chief editor at Wreckhouse Press, said in a phone interview.

Roy estimated between eight to 12 houses and buildings have washed into the sea. “It’s quite terrifying,” he said.

Jolene Garland, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland and Labrador, said a woman was safe and in “good health” after being “tossed into the water as her home collapsed” in the Channel-Port Aux Basques area. Garland said that an individual who might have been swept away was still reported as missing and that high winds were preventing an aerial search.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the town of 4,000 people was in a state of emergency as authorities dealt with multiple electrical fires and residential flooding.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau canceled his trip to Japan for the funeral for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trudeau said the federal government would deploy the Canadian Armed Forces to assist.

“We are seeing devastating images coming out of Port aux Basques. PEI (Prince Edward Island) has experienced storm damage like they’ve never seen. Cape Breton is being hit hard, too,” Trudeau said.

“Canadians are thinking of all those affected by Hurricane Fiona, which is having devastating effects in the Atlantic provinces and eastern Quebec, particularly in the Magdalen Islands. There are people who see their houses destroyed, people who are very worried — we will be there for you.”

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the roof of an apartment building collapsed and they moved 100 people to an evacuation center. He said no one was seriously hurt or killed. Provincial officials said there are other apartment buildings that are also significantly damaged. Halifax has about 160 people displaced from two apartments, officials said.

More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80% of the province of almost 1 million — were affected by outages Saturday morning. Over 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island, about 95%, were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 were without electricity.

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