hurricane season

Tampa Could Be a Bull’s-eye for Hurricane Ian

Photo: NOAA

For continuing updates on Hurricane Ian, see our live blog as it makes landfall in Florida.

Since it formed in the central Caribbean on Friday, Hurricane Ian has quickly grown to threaten the people in its path when it makes landfall later this week in Cuba and on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Upgraded to a Category 1 storm early Monday, it intensified to a Category 3 with winds of over 111 miles-per-hour before making landfall in Cuba. Below is everything we know about the fourth named hurricane of the 2022 season, which was historically quiet until last week.

Storm surge and strong winds hit Cuba

Ian continued to grow substantially heading over the Gulf of Mexico toward western Cuba, where storm surges struck the coast of the island’s far-west Pinar del Rio province early on Tuesday morning, where 50,000 people had evacuated. Up to 14 feet of storm surge was expected in the worst-hit areas. As the storm slowly crawls over the warm Gulf toward Florida, it is expected to intensify to a Category 4 before making landfall again.

Tampa could be hit with a 10-foot storm surge

A surge of up to five feet is possible in southwestern Florida, while the Tampa Bay area — home to more than 3 million people, with a large number of coastal houses built at sea level — getting a storm surge of up to ten feet. Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Times published a story noting how even a minor tropical storm could impact the low-lying Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater amid worsening conditions due to climate change. It would be the area’s first major hurricane since 1921.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that Ian could hit the western coast of Florida as early as Wednesday. “I’m telling you, it doesn’t take an onshore or direct hit from a hurricane to pile up the water,” acting NHC director Jamie Rhome said in a briefing this weekend. Tuesday afternoon brought flooding to Key West as the storm trudged north:

Ron DeSantis declares state of emergency in Florida

In anticipation of the storm, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency throughout Florida, with schools in Tampa closed through at least Thursday. “When you have five to 10 feet of storm surge, that is not something you want to be a part of,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “And Mother Nature is a very fearsome advisory.” Around 2.5 million people are now under evacuation orders.

“Please treat this storm seriously,” Hillsborough County emergency-management director Timothy Dudley said on Monday. “It’s the real deal. This is not a drill.” President Joe Biden also preemptively declared a state of emergency, ordering FEMA to work with local authorities to prepare aid services and shelters.

Tampa Could Be a Bull’s-eye for Hurricane Ian