Hurricane Ian heads into Gulf Monday night; Baldwin County should remain alert, forecasters say

Forecasters say path toward Florida not certain

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Yes, Hurricane Ian seems to be shifting east. For now.

That can still change.

That is the message the National Weather Service in Mobile is urging residents to keep in mind as they look at the storm's projected cone and shrug off what could potentially be a massive storm in the Gulf.

“We always encourage people to never let down their guard,” said Steve Miller a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Mobile. “There is reason why the forecast is in a cone. It can change. And it could turn off to the west.

“We really never know what’s going to happen until it happens,” he said.

Ian was upgraded to a hurricane early this morning as it moved over the western Caribbean Sea. As it moves past western Cuba tonight it will enter the Gulf where conditions are favorable for it to intensify quickly. This is where, meteorologists say, questions linger.

“Ian may decide to get very big,” Miller said.

On the current projected track, Ian would make landfall in the crook between the panhandle and the rest of the state of Florida.

The problem for Baldwin County residents is the outer bands that will radiate from the storm. If Ian grows, so do those bands meaning more wind and waves for Baldwin even if the county is outside the cone at landfall.

Miller said current predictions are expecting sustained winds of 20-25 mph in Baldwin County with gusts of 30 -35 mph. Numbers that could rise quickly if the storm shifts west, even slightly.

Rough surf and swells are also expected to crush the county’s beaches. He added that rain bands that stretch out from the storm’s center could also spawn severe weather in outlying regions such as Alabama.

“People should remain alert,” Miller said. “Should it decide to make a more westerly track, things could get more interesting.”

Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall Thursday.

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