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Hurricane Ian threatens devastation on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Will its remnants impact the Berkshires this weekend?

As Hurricane Ian aims at Florida’s Gulf Coast with a likely devastating brew of storm surge, damaging winds and widespread flooding, forecasters in the Northeast are keeping a wary eye on the storm’s expected slow trek through the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

The best-case and likely scenario for the Berkshires: A close call but only fringe effects as the remnants of Ian are expected to curve out to sea south of New York City, thanks to a strong Canadian high pressure system that will serve as a shield for New England.

“The bottom line is that we are not expecting significant impacts from the remnants of Ian, but some rainfall cannot be ruled out over the weekend into early next week.” said meteorologist Dan Thompson of the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., in an online post.

But the Sarasota-Fort Myers and Tampa Bay regions remain in the bulls-eye as Ian, a nearly Category 4 hurricane, churns slowly through the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Ian is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday as an extremely dangerous major hurricane, the government’s National Hurricane Center reported.

Early Tuesday evening, it was 225 miles south-southwest of Sarasota. Top sustained winds were 120 mph, with higher gusts. Ian was moving north at only 10 mph.

Multiple warnings remained posted for a storm surge and hurricane-force winds along an extended portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Rainfall through Thursday night was expected to total 12 to 16 inches, with some areas swamped by up to 24 inches.

Life-threatening storm surge looks increasingly likely along much of Florida’s west coast where a storm surge warning is in effect, with the highest risk from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay region.

Tropical storm warnings also were up along Florida’s East Coast from Boca Raton to southeastern Georgia as well as the lower and middle Florida Keys. A tropical storm watch extended up the coast to South Carolina.

After weakening slightly over western Cuba early Tuesday, Ian restrengthened later in the day over extremely warm Gulf waters, 85 to 90 degrees, ideal fuel for a hurricane.

Widespread, major flash and urban flooding are expected from Wednesday to Friday across central and northern Florida, southern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina, with significant, prolonged river flooding expected across central to northern Florida.

Flash and urban flooding are also expected with rainfall across southern Florida through Wednesday.

According to AccuWeather, the widespread nature of the impacts on the Northeast, mainly tropical rainfall, will depend heavily on the exact trajectory of Ian through this weekend.

There will be a lot of dry air in the Northeast prior to Ian's arrival. It's possible this could minimize the amount of rain the region receives.

Based on recent rainfall across the mid-Atlantic states, areas in eastern North Carolina, eastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula could have an increased risk of flooding. Those regions have been abnormally dry or are in a moderate drought, according to the most recent update from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or on Twitter @BE_cfanto

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