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Hurricane Ian is strengthening rapidly in the Caribbean as it passes over the ultra-warm waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center had predicted the system would rapidly intensify from a tropical storm to at least a category 4 hurricane in less than 72 hours.

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Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ian has strengthened into a hurricane as it moves closer to Cuba on a track expected to take it to Florida in the coming days. Authorities in Cuba have suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and say they will begin evacuations Monday as Ian is forecast to strengthen before reaching the western part of the island on its way to Florida. A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ian should reach the far-western part of Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday, hitting near the country’s most famed tobacco fields. It could become a major hurricane late Monday.

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Unpredictable Hurricane Ian strengthened overnight as it churned in the Caribbean, prompting urgent preparations in Florida, where the storm could deliver impacts, including tornadoes, starting Tuesday before possibly arriving as a major hurricane with powerful winds and dangerous storm surge.

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Authorities and residents in Florida are keeping a cautious eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it rumbles through the Caribbean. The National Hurricane Center said Sunday it expects Ian to rapidly strengthen and become a major hurricane by Monday as it passes over Cuba. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a statewide emergency, expanding an order from Friday that had covered two dozen counties. He is urging Floridians to prepare for a storm that could lash large swaths of the state. Some residents have begun stocking up on supplies such as water, plywood and generators. President Joe Biden has also declared an emergency for the state.

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Officials are fanning out across Puerto Rico to gauge the damage inflicted by Hurricane Fiona. People are returning to homes now empty because flooding has destroyed belongings. And they fret about how they will rebuild their lives after a devastating hurricane for the second time in five years. Fiona hit a week ago and about 45% of Puerto Rico’s power customers remain in the dark,. About 20% of water customers have no service. Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses have temporarily shut down due to lack of fuel for generators.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency across his entire state as Tropical Storm Ian gains strength over the Caribbean and is forecast to become a major hurricane in coming days. An emergency order DeSantis initially issued for two dozen counties was expanded to a statewide warning on Saturday. The governor is encouraging residents and localities to prepare for the storm, which could lash large swaths of Florida. The National Hurricane Center said Ian is forecast to rapidly power up to a hurricane by Sunday and a major hurricane as soon as late Monday. It's expected to move over western Cuba before approaching Florida in the middle of next week.

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NASA is skipping next week's launch attempt of its new moon rocket because of a tropical storm that's expected to become a major hurricane. It's the third delay in the past month for the lunar-orbiting test flight featuring mannequins but no astronauts. Hydrogen leaks and other technical problems caused the previous scrubs. NASA decided Saturday to forgo Tuesday's planned launch attempt and instead prepare the rocket for a possible return to its Florida hangar. Managers will decide Sunday whether to haul the 322-foot rocket off the launch pad. Currently churning in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Ian is expected to slam into Florida's Gulf coast by Thursday.

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