About 2.5 million residents in Florida have been encouraged to evacuate their homes ahead of Hurricane Ian.
"The time to evacuate is now. Get on the road," said Florida's emergency management director, Kevin Guthrie.
As of Wednesday, Hurricane Ian looked destined for Florida after pounding into Cuba earlier this week, destroying fishing villages and knocking out electricity to the entire country.
About 50,000 people were forced to evacuate in one of Cuba's provinces as the storm slammed the country with winds of 125 miles per hour.
When the storm lands again in Florida, possibly Wednesday night, winds are expected to reach 140 miles per hour. Hurricane Ian is predicted to make landfall as a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane.
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered National Guard troops to deploy to Florida's west coast to assist in preparations for the storm.
"This thing's the real deal," DeSantis said. "It is a major, major storm."
If Hurricane Ian breaks into the Tampa Bay area, it will be the worst storm to hit the area since 1921, according to news reports. The area is home to about 3 million people in and around surrounding cities.
"I know I should be scared of this one, but I'm too busy to be scared. I just know we have to go," John O'Leary, a jazz pianist from Tampa, told news reporters as he and his wife began their drive to his mother's house in Palm Harbor.
Forecasters say the storm surge could reach 12 feet (3.7 meters) in the Sarasota area.
"The impacts are going to be far, far broader than just where the eye of the storm happens to make landfall," Governor Ron DeSantis said.
Some 60 Florida school districts were either closed Tuesday or planned to be closed by Wednesday, DeSantis said.
According to Reuters, Commercial airlines also canceled more than 2,000 U.S. flights due to the storm, and Tampa Electric warned customers to be prepared for "extended outages."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Gerardo Mora/Stringer
Samaritan's Purse is preparing to aid with relief efforts in hard-hit Floridian communities. Donate to help the victims of Hurricane Ian here: https://samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/hurricane-ian
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.