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Warmer water is helping the Atlantic hurricane season heat up


For the first time in 25 years, August passed without a single named storm in the Atlantic. But since the beginning of September, we've had half a dozen. Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico and now, 1,800 miles away, Nova Scotia. Now Cuba and the Florida Panhandle are preparing for Ian, which has been upgraded to a hurricane and is set to hit this week. Meteorologist Matthew Cappucci of member station WAMU has more.

MATTHEW CAPPUCCI, BYLINE: Ian is expected to rapidly intensify as it hits western Cuba overnight tonight or early tomorrow. Winds near the eye could gust to 130 mph and push ashore a storm surge of 9 to 13 feet. This storm is taking advantage of water temperatures near 90 degrees in the northwest Caribbean. That's high-octane fuel for a storm like Ian. Hurricane warnings are in effect across western Cuba.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of the state's 67 counties, and he has already activated 2,500 members of the National Guard.


RON DESANTIS: Given the uncertainty of the path of the storm, we've done things like waive weight restrictions for commercial trucks. We want to ensure that adequate resources are able to be brought into the state of Florida.

CAPPUCCI: Meteorologists are still sorting out when and where Ian will hit.


JAMIE RHOME: It moved this way. It moved that way. Ian is going to be a large and powerful hurricane in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and spread its impacts over a large portion of the Florida Peninsula.

CAPPUCCI: That's Jamie Rhome, acting director of the National Hurricane Center. Damaging winds, storm surge, flooding rains and even a few tornadoes are possible. The month to date already featured a different Category 4 storm, Fiona. After making a historic landfall in Canada, the storm's remnants are now drifting towards Greenland. Earlier, Fiona knocked out power to almost all of Puerto Rico, and communities in the southwest part of the island saw winds to 109 miles per hour and 31.3 inches of rainfall. Disastrous flooding destroyed bridges and caused hundreds of landslides.

As Fiona churned north, it became a powerful Category 4 over the open Atlantic. It sideswiped Bermuda, cutting power to 80% of the island and hitting the airport with winds gusting to 93 miles per hour. Then Fiona began its second life. It outran the warm waters of the tropics and tapped into energy from the jet stream instead. It mimicked a potent winter storm when it blasted Nova Scotia with winds up to 110 mph.

Across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, a dozen homes washed into the sea in southern Newfoundland. The damage drew a pledge from Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We've approved Nova Scotia's request for federal assistance and will deploy the Canadian Armed Forces to assist in assessment and cleanup and stand ready to do more.

CAPPUCCI: Fiona will go into the record books for the lowest air pressure ever measured anywhere in Canada.

For NPR News, I'm Matthew Cappucci.


Matthew Cappucci