STORM UPDATE: TROPICAL STORM IAN’S TRACK CONTINUES WESTWARD SHIFT; NO DECISIONS YET ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSURES

Cautiously optimistic news about potential impacts from Tropical Storm Ian continued in Monroe County’s 3 p.m. briefing on Saturday as the storm’s projected track continues to shift slightly west. After passing over Cuba, Ian is still projected to intensify into a major hurricane that will pass through the Gulf of Mexico west of the Florida Keys before making landfall somewhere in the middle of Florida’s west coast.

Tropical storm force winds may still arrive as early as late Monday evening, but are more likely by Tuesday morning. Residents are still advised to complete all storm preparations by nightfall on Monday.

Current chances of sustained tropical storm force winds (more than 39 mph) are below 50% for all Keys communities except Key West (56%). Meanwhile, the chances of sustained hurricane force winds (more than 74 mph) are now in single digits for all areas of the Keys, with Key West’s 8% still the highest of all regions.

National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Jon Rizzo fielded questions about potential effects of flooding and storm surge, stating that until the storm’s organization and track becomes clearer, “the carrot keeps dangling a little out of reach as far as specifics.” However, Rizzo did add that as Ian’s track continues its slight westward shift, the movement does lessen the chance of destructive impacts.

“I don’t have anything negative to tell you at this point,” he said.

There are no official hurricane watches or warnings issued as of Saturday afternoon, but Rizzo added that a potential watch would likely be issued after Sunday morning’s updates.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director Shannon Weiner stated that apart from preparations already underway, the county is not yet planning any additional protective actions such as evacuations, but will revisit the decision after Sunday morning’s 9:30 a.m. update.

Monroe County business offices will be open on Monday, with the county clerk’s office closed.

After confusion earlier in the day, the briefing confirmed that no decisions have been made about Monroe County school closures as of yet, and as of Saturday afternoon, schools will be open on Monday. School officials will revisit the decision Sunday morning.

Stay tuned to keysweekly.com for another update following Sunday morning’s 9:30 a.m. briefing.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.