Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba on a track to hit Florida’s west coast as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday

Ian was forecast to hit the western tip of Cuba as a major hurricane and then become an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking Florida

It’s been over a century since a major storm like Hurricane Ian has struck the Tampa Bay area, which blossomed from a few hundred thousand people in 1921 to more than 3 million today

Many of these people live in low-lying neighborhoods that are highly susceptible to storm surge and flooding they have rarely before experienced, 

which some experts say could be worsened by the effects of climate change.

The problem confronting the region is that storms approaching from the south, as Hurricane Ian is on track to do

push huge volumes of water up into shallow Tampa Bay and are likely to inundate homes and businesses with up to 10 feet of storm surge.

“Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said at a news conference

Authorities in Cuba were evacuating 50,000 people in Pinar del Rio province, sent in medical and emergency personnel,

and took steps to protect food and other crops in warehouses, according to state media.