ATLANTA – Georgia emergency management officials activated the State Operations Center Monday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to reach Florida’s Gulf Coast later this week before potentially moving into Georgia.

A hurricane watch was in effect Monday along much of Florida’s west coast, including the Tampa Bay area, with a mandatory evacuation ordered for Hillsborough County.

Ian could become a major Category 4 storm by Tuesday, which means winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour.

The hurricane could hit South Georgia late Wednesday night or early Thursday, said Chris Stallings, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Gov. Brian Kemp said some models also show the storm could become stationary over Georgia, which would turn it into a major rain event.

“We have our whole team on active duty,” Kemp told reporters Monday afternoon. “We’re going to be proactive, planning ahead.”

Kemp said it’s too soon to determine whether he will declare a state of emergency in all or part of Georgia.

“I’ll use every power I’ve got to prepare for the storm and be ready when it hits,” he said.

The governor urged Georgians to monitor the storm as it evolves and take the necessary precautions to keep their families and neighbors safe if it intensifies.

Those who find themselves in Ian’s eventual path can also consult the informational website, which includes tips on storm preparedness before, during, and after a hurricane.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.