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Hurricane Ian is a compact storm, according to AccuWeather meteorologists, but the storm’s impacts are already having a significant impact across Florida. Power outages were above 100,000 early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.US. Conditions are only expected to deteriorate further across the Florida Peninsula as Ian makes landfall and tracks inland on Wednesday afternoon and evening. The storm is also bringing a significant tornado threat to southern Florida, and the storm already unleashed several damaging tornadoes in the Miami area on Tuesday.
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Hurricane Ian is rapidly intensifying on its final approach to Florida, with landfall projected south of Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. Given the tremendous power of the storm, forecasters have increased the rating of Ian to a 5 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, meaning that AccuWeather believes there will be catastrophic, long-lasting impacts and widespread structural and tree damage. Unlike the Saffir-Simpson scale, which only takes wind speed into account, the RealImpact™ Scale factor in storm surge, flooding rain, wind and economic damage.
Flooding and storm surge is one of the most destructive aspects of hurricanes, and forecasters are now expecting the catastrophic surge to reach 15 to 20 feet above the normal tide level along the coast just west of Fort Myers, Florida. This encompasses much of the same area that was hit so hard by Hurricane Charley in 2004.
Ian continues to intensify as it inches closer to the Florida coast. Recent data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicates that Ian’s maximum sustained winds have increased to 155 mph, which is just 2 mph short of a Category 5 strength. Ian is currently to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, but given recent intensification, the storm could be upgraded to a Category 5 prior to landfall.
Regardless of the exact category, Ian will deliver devastating storm surge, flooding, widespread wind damage and long-lasting power outages to Florida’s west coast. AccuWeather forecasters have narrowed down landfall to be just northwest of Fort Myers, between Don Pedro Island and Boca Grande, around 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. After landfall, Ian is expected to rapidly weaken to a Category 1 hurricane by Thursday morning.
Hurricane Ian is now at its highest strength thus far, with winds of 140 mph. This makes Ian a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This is also the strongest storm so far this year in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Earl was also a Category 4, but winds topped out at 130 mph. Category 4 storms have a wind range between 130 and 156 mph.
One of the most direct home impacts of Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida will be power outages, and the state’s top energy companies are preparing for what may be a massive spike in outages throughout the week. AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor spoke with Anna Gibbs, spokesperson for Duke Energy Florida, with the company contacting teams from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and Maine to help with power restoration.
“We are so grateful to have these agreements … to have these crews that are willing to leave their families behind, travel thousands of miles to come and help our customers get the lights back on as safely and quickly as possible,” Gibbs told Victor.
Gibbs noted two safety messages for Florida customers through Ian’s landfall, namely being proactive in shutting off power before flooding occurs in a home, as well as staying at least 30 feet away from downed power lines which may still have electricity. “Electricity and water do not mix … because this hurricane event is likely going to involve storm surge and flooding, we’re asking customers in those situations to go ahead and shut off power at their breaker,” Gibbs said.
Despite Ian's landfall still being several hours away, multiple locations have already received over 9 inches of rain.
Since the rain began on Monday evening, more than 9.50 inches of rain have fallen in both North Miami and South Miami. Slightly less has fallen at Miami International Airport, with 5.56 inches so far. Elsewhere, Key West International Airport has topped the 6-inch mark. The naval station in Key West has accumulated 6.51 inches.
Wind gusts have continued to increase in strength as Hurricane Ian continues to draw closer to Florida. Late on Tuesday evening, Key West International Airport recorded a wind gust of 79 mph. However, even higher wind gusts were reported elsewhere. Wind gusts of around 90 mph were measured at Smith Shoal and at a buoy just northwest of the Dry Tortugas.
With disaster relief organizations preparing for Hurricane Ian and any Florida residents that may be impacted, one group of volunteers in Springfield, Missouri has been hard at work over the past two days. Volunteers with Convoy of Hope have packed more than 10,000 meals over the past two days to hand out to those impacted after the storm, and are ready to deploy to the hardest-hit areas later this week. The volunteers bring their own trailers equipped with beds, showers and meals.
“We know what [Florida residents] don’t need is more outsiders coming in and using facilities that people who have damaged and destroyed homes may need,” Convoy of Hope Spokesperson Ethan Forhetz told AccuWeather Tuesday.
Convoy of Hope volunteers pack meals to be handed out to Florida residents after the landfall of Hurricane Ian.
A mainstay of NASCAR for generations, Talladega Superspeedway will offer a portion of its campgrounds free to Hurricane Ian evacuees beginning Wednesday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
One of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks will be used for more than just racing this week. Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, will offer a portion of its campgrounds free to evacuees of Hurricane Ian seeking temporary refuge, beginning at 9 a.m. CDT Wednesday morning. The offer comes as thousands of racing fans plan to visit the venue for this weekend’s YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. Services at the campgrounds include a pumping truck, portable restrooms and potable water. “We hope to provide a sense of relief by offering a place to stay for no charge for evacuees during this time of adversity,” Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton stated. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the path of the storm.”
Hurricane Ian's impacts are already starting to be felt in Florida Tuesday evening, with power outages slowly rising in the southern part of the state. As of 9:33 p.m. EDT, over 25,000 customers in Florida are without power, according to PowerOutage.US, with the main concentration coming in the southern tip of the state. Palm Beach County (9,191 outages) and Miami-Dade County (8,477 outages) contain the majority of the outages. In Cuba, after Ian blasted through the country earlier Tuesday, a nationwide blackout has been reported as the National Electroenergetic System collapsed. Cuba's Electric Union stated that work is being done to gradually restore service to the country's 11 million residents between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Tuesday morning, officials in the province of Pinar del Rio cut power to the entire population of 850,000 as a precautionary measure, according to local reports.
Texas A&M Task Force 1 readies its search-and-rescue team in advance of traveling to Florida for Hurricane Ian efforts. (Office of the Texas Governor/TEEX)
Florida is gaining help from yet another state in advance of Hurricane Ian. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to deploy the Texas A&M Task Force 1 to Florida, a search-and-rescue team that consists of 45 personnel, four boats and two canines. One of the 28 federal teams under FEMA’s National Urban Search and Rescue System, Texas A&M Task Force 1 joins the Kentucky National Guard as crews from outside states authorized to join Florida’s Ian efforts Tuesday.“The spirit of Texas is helping one another in times of need, and we are proud to help our fellow Americans in Florida ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian … we greatly appreciate the generosity of Floridians and aid the State of Florida has sent us during times of crisis in our state -- and we are honored to do the same,” Gov. Abbott stated.
A tornado that touched down Tuesday evening and traveled through Broward County, Florida, has left significant damage in its wake to a local airport. At North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines, multiple small planes were damaged, with at least two being flipped completely upside down. Residents in the area are also reporting damage as result of the tornado, such as downed trees in one neighborhood. The tornado was confirmed to have touched down on the east side of Cooper City at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
High wind gusts have already been reported in Florida in advance of Hurricane Ian, specifically at a notable airport in the state. During a 7 p.m. EDT update on Ian by the National Hurricane Center, it was reported that Key West International Airport had a recent sustained wind of 48 mph, with a gust up to 71 mph. A WeatherFlow station at the Key West Coast Guard also reported a wind gust up to 54 mph.The Key West International gust was not the highest reported in the past 24 hours, with that distinction going to Blue Water Drive in the Florida Keys with a gust of 85 mph. Other high wind gusts in the state were reported in Smith Shoal in the Dry Tortugas (66 mph) and Cudjoe Key (60 mph). The top overall wind gust attributed to Ian thus far was in Havana, Cuba, which received a gust of 87 mph.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to make preparations for Hurricane Ian’s impacts on the state, including deploying 5,000 Florida Guardsmen Tuesday to help with response operations. The Guardsmen will be pre-positioned at armories across the state. DeSantis is receiving help from other states in the form of 2,000 state National Guard troops, as well as 700 personnel from federal partners in FEMA, according to a statement by President Joe Biden earlier Tuesday.
“We can rebuild property, we can fix infrastructure, you can fix your home, you don’t get a mulligan when your personal safety is at risk,” DeSantis told his fellow residents in a Tuesday update, using the golf term for a second chance to make his point. “We know this thing is going to be hitting the state directly tomorrow evening, you still have some time, but that time is rapidly running out.”
Another tornado moved through Florida in advance of Hurricane Ian’s landfall, with a tornado confirmed to have touched down on the east side of Cooper City at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The Miami station of the National Weather Service warned that the tornado was “intensifying” after making landfall, and was likely to impact western portions of Broward County, including the cities of Davie and Pembroke Pines. A tornado warning was put into place for the area until 7:45 p.m. EDT, with the NWS urging residents to take shelter immediately.
Walt Disney World announced it will temporarily close its theme parks on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Hurricane Ian. With Ian forecast to make landfall on Wednesday evening, Walt Disney World Resort Hotels will require guests to check in by 3 p.m. Wednesday, and then to shelter in place for the duration of the storm. Cancellation fees will be waived for guests who decide to cancel their stay.
Universal Orlando Resorts announced park closures Tuesday afternoon. A tweet from the official account said Universal Orlando Resort, including CityWalk, will close Wednesday and Thursday expecting to open again on Friday. "Our hotels are currently at full capacity and will remain operational as they take care of our guests," an additional announcement said.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment announced closures of its Tampa and Orlando-based amusement parks. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will be closed from Tuesday to Thursday, while SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove are all announced to close Wednesday and Thursday.
Rosen Hotels and Resorts released “Distress Rates” on Monday to give Florida residents a safe, affordable place to evacuate during the storm. The rates range from $69 to $119 a night without taxes depending on the location, according to the website the company shared on its Instagram page.
The University of South Carolina (USC) moved this weekend’s football game against South Carolina State University (SCSU) ahead to this Thursday, due to possible impacts from Hurricane Ian this weekend. According to the latest forecast, impacts from Ian are expected to start in South Carolina Friday into Saturday. “Due to the potential impact of the hurricane on Columbia and the surrounding area, it is in the best interest of safety to play the game on Thursday rather than Saturday afternoon,” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a news release. All tickets for Saturday’s game will be honored on Thursday and the game will kick off at 7 p.m. EDT Thursday. Due to the anticipated conditions from Ian, the University of South Florida’s football game against East Carolina University has been moved from Tampa to Boca Raton, the American Athletic Conference and USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly announced Tuesday. It will now be played on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. The University of Florida’s football game against Eastern Washington University has been rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday at noon, the University Athletic Association announced Tuesday.
With Hurricane Ian’s landfall looming over Florida, storms have already dumped plenty of rain on the state.
Over the past 24 hours, the top reported rainfall total was in Layton, a city on the island of Long Key, with 8.41 inches of rain in the city thus far. Other top rainfall reports, all above 7 inches of rain, were found in Islamorada (8.07 inches), Lower Matecumbe Key (8.01 inches), Lower Matecumbe Beach (7.9 inches) and Thompson (7.01 inches). Florida airports that received the most rain over the past 24 hours were Key West Naval (5.69 inches), Key West International (5.36 inches) and Miami Ops Locks (4.81 inches). Both Hollywood (4.06 inches) and Miami International (4 inches) airports also received a considerable 24-hour sum.
With St. Petersburg being one of the more populated Florida cities in the path of Hurricane Ian, city officials were making strides Tuesday in their preparation for the storm. St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch took a call from President Joe Biden Tuesday, with Biden assuring the mayor that his administration was monitoring Ian “around the clock.” “Critical events like Hurricane Ian knows no party line and it’s imperative we put the safety and welfare of our residents above all else,” Welch stated. “We look forward to working alongside our regional, state and federal partners as we weather and then rebound from this storm.”
The city’s Public Works Administrator, Claude Tankersley, updated residents Tuesday by stating that St. Petersburg is not planning to turn off water or sewage services during the storm. The city is asking residents to reduce the use of water during the storm, as well as to not run dishwashers or laundry and to limit the use of showers and toilets.
At least one tornado was confirmed to have touched down in south Florida Tuesday as forecasters warned of Hurricane Ian potentially ushering in clusters of tornadoes over the next few days. No injuries were immediately reported.
The National Weather Service in Miami said the radar-confirmed tornado was first spotted 7 miles east of Dade-Collier Training Airport in Collier County, northwest of Miami-Dade County, around 4 p.m. A string of tornado warnings has been issued across both counties.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer, on location in southern Florida, is monitoring the supercell storms moving into the area of the Everglades and southeast of Naples along the Interstate 75 corridor. Timmer explained that the approach of Hurricane Ian with the strong wind shear was creating the perfect environment for tropical tornadoes. “Typically, the tornadoes are most common in the front right quadrants ahead of a hurricane” and in the outer bands as well, he said. Tornado watches remain in effect for much of the state into the evening hours.
Residents in the Florida hub of Tampa have been making their evacuation plans this week, with the result being bumper-to-bumper traffic to leave the city on Tuesday afternoon.
Eastbound lanes out of Tampa on Interstate 4 were crammed Tuesday, with residents likely trying to get out of the city before Hurricane Ian’s landfall. The highway takes drivers northeast out of Tampa, traveling through cities such as Lakeland, Kissimmee, Orlando and Daytona. Ian’s forecasted track has the storm making landfall just south of Tampa, which may bring flooding and storm surge.
Businesses boarded up to protect their establishments and evacuations ramped up with heavy traffic in Ocala, Florida, as Hurricane Ian loomed closer on Sept. 26.
The Tampa Bay Bucs began practicing in Miami on Tuesday as evacuations were underway in Tampa. According to the WDSU in New Orleans, the Bucs may play the next home game on the schedule, Sunday night’s highly anticipated matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, in the famed Superdome. The local news station cited unnamed sources from the NFL who said a decision on whether the game will be relocated could come within 48 hours. Hurricane conditions in Tampa will be long gone by Sunday, according to the AccuWeather forecast, but power outages and other impacts could linger for days, forecasters and local officials have warned.
Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction cut through Cuba on Tuesday, forcing evacuations and cutting power to over a million people. The storm made landfall in the country’s Pinar del Rio Province early Tuesday, with officials cutting power to the entire province of 850,000 residents as a precautionary measure, according to local media reports. Low-lying coastal areas were evacuated as well, with 40,000 people taken out of the threat area. Roofs were taken off of homes and buildings throughout the region, and roads into the areas have been blocked by downed trees and power lines.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ana Julia Gomez, a 56-year-old in Pinar del Rio who saw her home ravaged by the storm, told Reuters. “I lost everything; nothing is left.” A street vendor in Pinar del Rio, Mayelin Saurez, called the night of Ian's passage the "darkest of her life."
Cuba’s capital city of Havana was under a tropical storm watch for Ian, but was spared the brunt of the chaos early Tuesday aside from rain and stronger winds. “We are incredibly fortunate Ian did not cross Havana, because more than half of the city would have collapsed," said liquor factory watchman Felix Hernandez.
Collier County’s Zone A was upgraded from voluntary evacuation to mandatory evacuation on Tuesday evening. The county is located south of Fort Myers in southwest Florida, its Zone A situated along the coast. The update came just before the hurricane watch along Florida's western coast was extended southward to Chokoloskee, located at the edge of Ten Thousand Islands in Collier County.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for areas from Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay, and Dry Tortugas. The storm surge watch for the area from Marineland to the Flagler-Volusia County Line was also upgraded to a storm surge warning.
Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), a measure that meteorologists use to track the intensity and duration of tropical storms and hurricanes, for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season has climbed to 67.7 — still well below the climatological average to date of 90.3, according to Colorado State University. Before Ian and Hermine had formed in the Atlantic, the ACE value was 61.1. As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Ian had notched an ACE value of 6, but that number should continue to climb as the storm strengthens to Category 4 force over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. In comparison, long-lived Hurricane Fiona, which chugged across the central Atlantic before slamming the northern Caribbean islands, swirling well off of the East Coast and making a direct hit in Atlantic Canada, had a final ACE value of 26.3. Hurricane Earl — a storm that grazed Bermuda and then trucked toward Newfoundland — had an ACE value of 14.2.
Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp declared a state of emergency for all counties in his state Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The order will go into effect at 7 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 29, and will expire at midnight on Friday, Oct. 28, his office said. The full order can be viewed here.
The governor’s office said this latest executive action related to Hurricane Ian follows the activation of Georgia’s State Operations Center on Monday to more closely coordinate “all relevant state, local, and federal agencies” on storm preparations and response. The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency remains at a Level 2 elevated activation and continues to monitor Hurricane Ian’s progress.
Georgia’s state of emergency follows Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida on Saturday.
President Joe Biden said he told three Florida mayors whose cities are in the path of Hurricane Ian that his administration is “on alert and in action” to help the residents of Florida this week. Biden said that FEMA has already deployed 700 personnel to Florida, with 5,000 Florida National Guard troops and 2,000 National Guard troops from other states also at the ready for assistance. He also said that FEMA will be providing up to 3.5 million liters of water, 3.7 million meals and hundreds of generators to deal with Ian’s landfall. The president spoke with mayors in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater this week, acknowledging they are “focused on the safety” of their communities. “[I told them] whatever you need, contact me directly … we’re here to support them in every way we can,” Biden remarked.
To the residents of Florida, Biden said they should follow local orders such as evacuations, and that he sees that current evacuations are going on in a “fairly orderly” way. “Your safety is more important than anything,” he said. “I know our hearts are with everyone who will feel the effects of this storm, and we will be with you every step of the way. We aren’t going away.”
NASA has once again postponed its Artemis I launch and rolled back the spacecraft in preparation for Hurricane Ian’s arrival. The agency had first attempted to launch on Aug. 29 but canceled due an issue with one of the rocket’s main engines. The second attempt on Sept. 3 was also scrubbed as officials detected a liquid hydrogen leak. The new window had been established for Sept. 19 to Oct. 4, aiming for Sept. 27 and a backup date of Oct. 2. But on Tuesday morning they live-streamed the “NASA Rolls Back SLS Rocket to Shelter From Hurricane Ian” on its YouTube channel.
“As Hurricane Ian moves toward Florida, the agency began to roll back its rocket and spacecraft at 11 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, providing enough time for employees to prioritize safety of their families, as well as protect the Artemis I hardware before the hurricane makes landfall,” the agency said on a press release Tuesday.
As Hurricane Ian moves over Florida, it will bring an intense cloud cover to the Sunshine State. The rain and thick cloud cover from Ian will limit the amount of sunlight that will be shining and warming Florida this week. Temperatures will struggle to get out of the 70s in many locations, which is nearly 5-10 degrees cooler than average. In Gainesville, which is located in northern Florida about 95 miles north of Orlando, the average temperature is 86 degrees F during this time of the year. As Ian passes through, temperatures will be about 10 degrees cooler on Wednesday and Thursday due to the lack of sunlight and rain. In Tampa, temperatures are expected to drop on Friday nearly 10 degrees below normal on Friday due to the cloud cover. Strong winds from Ian could make it feel even cooler in Tampa on Friday as well.
Category 5 hurricanes are one of the most powerful types of storms on Earth, and the Atlantic Ocean basin rarely sees any. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) historical hurricane data, which dates back to 1851, there have been a total of 1,101 hurricanes (Category 1 through Category 5) to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean basin. Of those 1,101, only 37 of them have made it to Category 5 strength — meaning just over 3% of all hurricanes have made it to this catastrophic level.
Of the 37 Category 5 hurricanes, only four of them have ever made landfall in the U.S. The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 was among the first Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall when it devastated the Florida Keys. It wasn’t until nearly 34 years later when Hurricane Camille smashed into the Mississippi coast, bringing the largest storm surge the U.S. had ever seen at the time. Hurricane Andrew struck southeastern Florida 27 years after Camille, destroying scores of homes and leaving thousands without power for several months, according to NOAA. Most recently, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, in 2018. Micheal resulted in about $25 billion in damages in the U.S., according to National Hurricane Center (NHC).
With Hurricane Ian drawing closer to Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis estimated that some 2.5 million people were under evacuation orders. Charlotte, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, as well as parts of Manatee County, were all under mandatory evacuation orders as of Tuesday afternoon. An additional four counties — Collier, Glades, Highlands and Taylor — were under a voluntary evacuation notice. The mandatory evacuations primarily extended to those living in low-lying areas as well as mobile homes and trailers.
“When you have five to 10 feet of storm surge, that is not something you want to be a part of,” DeSantis said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. “And Mother Nature is a fearsome adversary.” He added that residents should prepare for a few days — or more — without electricity.
Sarasota, Florida, is facing some of the worst impacts from looming Hurricane Ian, as the storm is currently on track to make landfall very close to the city, which is about 42 miles south of Tampa, AccuWeather forecasters say. As of 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the storm was about 265 miles south of Sarasota.
The storm could wallop the region with a life-threatening storm surge, ferocious wind gusts up to 140 mph, and more than a month’s worth of rain. Sarasota normally receives 7.43 inches of rain during the entire month of September, but Ian could bring 8-12 inches this week, according to the latest AccuWeather forecast.
Florida has had to deal with numerous tropical systems in recent years including Hurricane Elsa and Tropical Storm Fred in 2021, as well as Tropical Storm Fay in 2020. So far this year, the state has only had to deal with Alex, which didn’t receive its name until after it drenched South Florida in early June as a tropical rainstorm, or potential tropical cyclone as it was labeled by the National Hurricane Center.
Ian is currently forecast to slam into Florida’s central Gulf Coast as a Category 3 storm, which would make it a major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Category 3 storms have maximum sustained winds that can range from 111 mph to 129 mph. Florida has not been struck by such a ferocious storm since Hurricane Michael’s historic landfall in October 2018, when it slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 5 storm, one of just four hurricanes to make landfall at that strength in the U.S. in recorded history. In September 2019, Florida did have a fairly close encounter with Hurricane Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm before it journeyed into the open Atlantic, remaining parallel with the Atlantic coast of Florida as a Category 2 storm but never making landfall in the Sunshine State.
FILE-In this Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. file photo, rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
As Hurricane Ian inches closer to Florida’s west coast, Orlando International Airport (MCO) announced that all operations at the airport will cease starting at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
As for individual airlines, Southwest Airlines has canceled all flights for Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers. While Southwest only canceled flights to and from RSW, it is also offering travel waivers for flights at other Florida airports that may be impacted.
Most major airlines are also waiving fees for rebooking. According to American Airlines, a travel alert has been issued for 20 airports in the western Caribbean and Florida. This allows customers whose travel plans are affected by Hurricane Ian to rebook without change fees. United Airlines is waiving the flight change fee for flights between Sept. 23 and Sept. 30 at 11 airports across Florida. Delta Airlines also issued a travel waiver for those whose flight plans may be impacted by Hurricane Ian. Delta said flights booked between Sept. 25 and Sept. 30 at one of the 16 listed Florida airports qualify for the travel waiver.
As soon as Hurricane Ian emerged off the coast of Cuba Tuesday morning, its eye began to clear and the "stadium effect" became evident on GOES-16 visible satellite. There have been dozens of lightning strikes in the northern eyewall of the storm for several hours -- something that can indicate strengthening.
Extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer shared a live update from Clearwater Beach, Florida, which is just to the east of Tampa, talking about Ian's tornado and storm surge threat. Timmer explained where the center of the hurricane, often referred to as the eye, makes landfall is important in understanding how intense the storm surge will be.
“Anywhere near and to the right of the center is likely going to have catastrophic storm surge,” Timmer said. “That means anywhere to the left of the center will have more offshore flow, less of the severe storm surge.” The latest forecast track of Ian has it making landfall just south of Tampa, which could bring devastating storm surge to areas from Naples to Fort Myers to Venice. “Definitely is concerning that this storm is also going to be putting on the breaks as it makes landfall,” Timmer said. The stalling of the storm near shore could result in “absolutely catastrophic” storm surge for coastal areas.
Ian emerged over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday morning as a powerful major hurricane. The storm had lost some wind intensity after its brush with Cuba, with its maximum sustained winds down to 115 mph, just four mph about the threshold for major hurricane status. But AccuWeather forecasters warned that the storm was expected to quickly regain some strength and reach Category 4 hurricane status by late Tuesday.
Ian is seen on AccuWeather's RealVue™ satellite over the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday morning.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 305 miles south-southwest of Sarasota, Florida, and moving to the north at 10 mph. New watches and warnings were issued in the U.S. including for parts of Georgia and South Carolina. The NHC said a tropical storm warning on the U.S. east coast has been extended north to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, and south to Boca Raton, Florida. A tropical storm watch extends from north of Altamaha Sound to South Santee River South Carolina, according to the NHC.
People in western Cuba woke up to devastating scenes on Tuesday morning after Ian slammed into the island as a Category 3 hurricane overnight. One video that was shared on social media showed residents walking through waist-deep water as waves continued to crash onshore. Once the sun started to rise, more of the damage could be seen. Power lines, trees and siding could be seen littered across the roads in a series of photos one resident shared on Twitter.
AccuWeather meteorologists on Tuesday morning made a key adjustment to the Eye Path® forecast for Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida this week. The forecasting team now predicts that Ian will make landfall south of the Tampa area. “This would mean the worst of the storm surge (6-10 feet) would occur from Naples to near Venice,” AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said, warning that any barrier islands between these points will be “completely overwhelmed.” In addition, the timing of the storm’s landfall has changed too, with AccuWeather meteorologists saying that the storm is forecast to make landfall Wednesday evening over the central part of the Florida Peninsula.
In addition to the hurricane-force winds, record-challenging storm surge and flooding rainfall, clusters of tornado outbreaks are also possible over the next few days in Florida. Pockets of dry air will allow for the sun to emerge for some time, raising temperatures and making conditions favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornado development. The highest risk of tornadoes spans across southern Florida, from Fort Myers to Port. St Lucie to Miami. Although the risk level is slightly less, tornadoes could still form as far north as Orlando and Tampa. It is possible that some waterspouts will travel inland, turning into a tornado. Most tornadoes will be short-lived and fast-moving.
A tornado watch has been issued for southern Florida from Miami to Key West until 5 p.m. EDT. As the outer bands of Hurricane Ian start to impact southern Florida, tornadoes, along with heavy rain and gusty winds will all be possible. “A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area,” the Storm Prediction Center said.
Satellite and radar imagery early Tuesday showed Ian’s eye to be a bit cloudy, with forecasters expecting it to become clearer once the hurricane moves over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and strengthens. The size of Ian’s eye as of 9 a.m. EDT was about 25 nautical miles. The eye of the storm is typically a key indicator of a hurricane’s strength, although some powerful hurricanes have smaller eyes than others. Inside the eye, the weather is a “relatively calm, clear area that is approximately 20-40 miles across,” the National Weather Service states. The NWS also says that the eyewall surrounding the eye consists of dense clouds “that contain the highest winds in the storm.”
Lee County has declared a local state of emergency and announced a mandatory evacuation order due to the current forecast track of Hurricane Ian. Lee County is located in southwest Florida and includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers — both of which are under a hurricane warning. For those who cannot evacuate, Lee County officials have shared a list of public shelters on their website. Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LSCO) stated in a press conference that they will not respond to calls for service until winds are below sustained 45 mph, WINK News reported. Officials at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa and the Naval Station in Key West ordered at least partial evacuations of their bases, Stars and Stripes reported.
Florida residents scrambled to fill and place sandbags around their homes and stockpile emergency supplies on Monday. “Please treat this storm seriously,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said Monday, The Associated Press reported. “It’s the real deal. This is not a drill.”
As of 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Ian remained a Category 3 major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of around 125 mph. The storm was just 10 miles north-northeast of the Cuban city of Pinar Del Rio and was moving north at a speed of 12 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center of Ian and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 115 miles. Heavy rain, strong winds and a life-threatening storm surge were ongoing in parts of Cuba early Tuesday.
According to Colorado State University Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, who specializes in tropical weather forecasts, Ian is the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Cuba since Hurricane Irma did so as a Category 5 storm in 2017. Klotzbach also noted that Ian is the strongest hurricane in the western Caribbean since Felix in 2007.
Ian is seen near western Cuba as a major hurricane on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (NOAA GOES East)
The International Space Station has turned its attention to Hurricane Ian as it tracks near Cuba, with the CRONUS flight controllers swinging a camera to get a proper look at the storm. Footage from the ISS satellite orbiting the Earth can be seen on a YouTube live stream, and includes a tracker that allows viewers to see where the satellite is currently located. Video captured from the satellite Monday shows the width of the storm that was located about 155 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba as of 5 p.m. EDT. At that time, Ian had sustained winds of up to 100 mph and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The International Space Station used CRONUS flight controllers to get a better look at Hurricane Ian on Monday. (NASA)
With mandatory evacuation orders underway for some counties in the Tampa area due to Hurricane Ian, including Hillsborough County, evacuation shelters have been set up for those in need. Hillsborough County officials have advised those in the area that shelters are opened on an “as-needed” basis, and that shelter openings may vary with each emergency.
Three types of shelters will be operated by the county during the emergency, with different shelters made available for the general population, those with pets, and those with special needs. For general population shelters, the county asks for those using facilities to bring their own water, food, bedding, medications, medical items and other supplies. Pet-friendly shelters must have the owner bring a proof of current rabies vaccination and license for a cat or dog, and owners are responsible for care of the pet while in the shelter.
Florida's largest utility company, Florida Power and Light, has released a statement saying it is preparing for the impacts caused by Hurricane Ian in the coming days. The company said they are preparing for widespread outages that could last multiple days as a result of the storm and urges customers to take precautions. FPL is mobilizing and pre-positioning its restoration workforce, which consists of over 13,000 personnel.
The company also said it is finalizing logistics for staging sites in the areas that will likely be most affected and coordinating with county and state emergency operation centers about response. "Immediately following the hurricane, once winds drop below 35 miles per hour, FPL will continue restoration and conduct damage assessments with field crews," the company said in an online statement.
After rapidly intensifying to major hurricane strength earlier in the morning on Tuesday, Ian has made landfall in western Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Destructive winds and coastal flooding, as well as heavy flooding rainfall, are set to continue in Cuba, with the worst conditions expected to last through early Tuesday afternoon before slowly improving thereafter.
While Cuba's hilly terrain may put a temporary pause in Ian's strengthening, AccuWeather forecasters don't expect that to last for long.
"Further strengthening is expected to continue through Tuesday after Ian exits Cuba and enters into the Gulf of Mexico," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said. According to the latest AccuWeather forecast, Ian could reach Category 4 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale as early as Tuesday evening.
Aided by low wind shear and warm waters in the western Caribbean, Hurricane Ian has strengthened rapidly over the past 24 hours. Now, at 2:30 a.m. EDT, Ian has been upgraded to a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, making it the second major hurricane of the season so far.
Satellite depiction of Hurricane Ian as it approaches western Cuba. (College of DuPage)
As Ian's most intense winds move onshore in western Cuba, the storm has continued to organize, forming a well-developed eye as it approaches the coast. Even though the hurricane will interact with land as it moves over the island, additional strengthening is then expected, with Ian likely reaching Category 4 status by Tuesday night.
With Hurricane Ian continuing to strengthen and now on Florida's doorstep, many localities have made the decision to close schools, often for the remainder of the week.
According to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday evening, school districts within 24 counties have already decided to close, with more likely to follow suit. That number had grown to nearly 30 later at night, according to a list provided by the Florida Department of Education.
In some areas of the state, local school buildings will be designated as storm shelters for those in need of a place to ride out the storm. The Florida Division of Emergency Management is maintaining a list of shelters available in each county.
With all eyes on Florida due to Hurricane Ian’s impending landfall, the state’s northern neighbor is also making preparations for the storm.
In an update Monday, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Chris Stallings told the press that Georgia is preparing to welcome Florida evacuees that will be leaving due to Ian, mentioning that counties in the Tampa area issued mandatory evacuations Monday.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has also kept up to date on the Ian situation, stating that there are concerns that the storm could slow down and produce flooding rains in the state. AccuWeather forecasters state that an ongoing risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will be a concern in Georgia later into the week, along with similar concerns for the Carolinas.
Tampa International Airport will suspend operations beginning at 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday. (Photo via Getty Images)
Tampa International Airport announced it will suspend all operations starting at 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday in preparation for Hurricane Ian. "The 5 p.m. closure will allow the Airport to prepare the airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment, and any remaining aircraft," airport officials said in a statement. The main terminal, airsides and parking garages will all be closed to any visitors. The airport also said it will begin damage assessments as soon as it is safe to do so and will closely coordinate when to reopen.
Rangers with the National Park Service close off the Highway 399 through Gulf Islands National Seashore as a subtropical storm makes landfall on Monday, May 28, 2018 in Pensacola, Fla. Areas of the shore were closed yet again Monday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)
The Florida areas of the Gulf Islands National Seashore closed to all visitors on Monday as Hurricane Ian approached the coast. Fort Pickens Area, Perdido Key Area, Opal Beach and Okaloosa Area are part of the closure, according to WEAR-TV. Those at the campgrounds were told to evacuate by noon on Monday, and all reservations for the campgrounds will be canceled.
“Due to potentially deteriorating conditions forecasted by the National Weather Service Office, high surf, and the likelihood for significant flooding on the park roadways, the park will close the Florida Areas until further notice,” superintendent Darrell Echols said in an online statement by National Park Service.
Residents of Orange County fill sand bags at Baldwin Park to protect their homes in preparation of Hurricane Ian, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Grapeland Park in Miami held a similar volunteer effort Monday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Residents of Miami were making the necessary preparations Monday as Hurricane Ian was just hours away from landfall in Florida. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell reported Monday afternoon from Miami’s Grapeland Park, where volunteers loaded residents’ cars with sandbags. Sandbags will be helpful, particularly in low-lying communities, where too much rain in a short timespan can create flooding issues.
In June, a tropical rainstorm that eventually was given the name Alex after moving away from Florida dumped 10 inches of rain on southern Florida, inundating streets.“I’ve been here all my life, so I know how things (can) change,” Miami resident Victor Valdez told Wadell. “I never know what’ll happen, so it won’t hurt to have (sandbags).” Watch Wadell's report below.
More Florida schools have chosen to close this week due to the imminent landfall of Hurricane Ian. Orange County Public Schools, the ninth-largest school district in the United States, announced that all schools and facilities will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. The district will also be halting most extracurricular activities Tuesday afternoon before the Wednesday and Thursday closures. The Orange County announcement comes after schools in Hillsborough County decided to close schools Monday, and schools in Sarasota County announced a closure for Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.” Schools in Alachua County, which includes the city of Jacksonville, plan to remain open on Tuesday, with plans for the rest of the week to be shared Tuesday morning.
Tampa International Airport may begin shutdown in parts of its airfield and facilities over the next 24 hours in advance of Ian's landfall. (Photo via Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay area is one part of Florida bracing for Ian impacts over the next several days, with its host airport making its own preparations. Tampa International Airport remained operational as of Monday afternoon, but may begin shutting down parts of its airfield and facilities over the next 24 to 48 hours.
The airport will see minimal activity when sustained winds in the area reach 40 mph, and all airport operations cease when sustained winds reach 50 mph. Officials state that the airport will remain open until a closure is necessary. Travelers will be given as much notice as possible if a closure is made. Just 15 miles away from Tampa International, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport reported that its terminal will close at 1 p.m. EDT Tuesday, and will remain closed until an evacuation order is lifted in Pinellas County.
BP Plc stated Monday that the company is shutting down production at the Na Kika and Thunder Horse offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, with Ian forecast to strengthen into the northeastern Gulf, Reuters reported on Monday. BP announced it has evacuated all personnel from Na Kika, which produces 130,000 barrels of oil per day, as well as all essential personnel from Thunder Horse, which produces 250,000 barrels per day.
Contemporaries such as Chevron Corp. have made their own arrangements, with Chevron transporting all personnel away from its Petronius and Blind Faith platforms in the Gulf. Shell PLC stated Monday that the company is “closely monitoring” Ian, with no impacts to Gulf operations as of Monday afternoon.
Hurricane Ian strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane in the Caribbean Sea Monday morning, making a pass by Grand Cayman Islands and bringing some strong wind gusts to the area.
The strongest wind gusts reported on the islands all cracked the 50 mph mark, with gusts reported at 59 mph at Shoreline Drive, 52 mph at Heritage Beach and 50 mph at Bodden Town. Other top gusts were reported at Savannah (48 mph), Yacht Drive (47 mph), Grand Cayman Airport (44 mph) and Georgetown (44 mph). Rough seas caused by Ian's winds washed debris along a road on the islands Monday morning.
Offices of the city of Tampa closed Monday at 5 p.m. EDT to allow for storm preparations. While the offices will be closed, emergency services such as out-of-school camps, sandbag distribution and the Citizen’s Info Line will remain in service. Residential garbage collection will run through noon Tuesday, and one blue city of Tampa garbage cans will be collected. All garbage that isn’t collected should be secured before the storm. Additional details can be found here.
Classes at Florida State University’s Tallahassee campus have been canceled for Tuesday through Friday, the university said Monday in an announcement. It added that the cancellation of classes on Tuesday was “out of an abundance of caution” for students to travel safely out of the area if they choose to leave. When possible, the university will continue to provide campus services, including dining, for students throughout the closure and on-campus resident halls will remain open for residential students.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) greet following the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay won 31-9. The two are scheduled to face off in a week 4 matchup Sunday in Tampa, unless Hurricane Ian changes plans. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have moved practices from the facility at One Buc Place to Miami due to the approaching Hurricane Ian, CBS Sports reported. While Miami is forecast to have experience impacts from Ian, the Tampa area is forecast to bear the brunt of the powerful storm. The Bucs have a Sunday Night Football game scheduled in Tampa on Oct. 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, just three days after Ian is expected to be the most severe hurricane to strike the Tampa area. The team is working with the NFL to possibly move the game if Ian makes landfall near the area, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
In 2021, a game between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints was moved from New Orleans to Jacksonville after evacuations were ordered due to Hurricane Ida. The Saints were able to play the game in Jacksonville because the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the road that week. While Jacksonville, Miami and New Orleans all play road games this week, an official site for relocation has not been agreed upon yet.
A satellite image showing Hurricane Ian just after it reached Category 2 force on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. The storm underwent rapid intensification Sunday into Monday
AccuWeather meteorologists had been warning about the potential for days ahead of time and on Monday Ian officially strengthened enough to meet the National Hurricane Center's criteria for rapid intensification, meaning it added at least 35 mph of sustained windspeed in 24 hours or less.
At 5 p.m. EDT Sunday, Ian’s maximum sustained winds were 45 mph as the storm was about 220 miles (355 km) southeast of the Grand Cayman Islands, with movement at 12 mph. Since then, Ian has graduated from a Tropical Storm to a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as of 5 p.m. EDT Monday-- more than enough to qualify.
The potential for Ian’s rapid intensification led AccuWeather forecasters on Sunday to rate the storm a 3 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes, and a 4 on the scale for the northwest Caribbean. But what does that rating entail? AccuWeather created the RealImpact Scale to provide practical information that residents of storm-stricken environments can use to evaluate threats posed by a hurricane or tropical storm. The RealImpact Scale differs from the widely-used Saffir-Simpson scale, which classifies storms only by wind speed. The AccuWeather scale takes into consideration a host of other factors such as flooding rain, storm surge and economic damages. Using factors such as inland flooding and storm surge, which are more likely to result in deaths and damages than wind speed alone, makes the RealImpact Scale a superior communicator as far as a storm’s potential impact on lives.
Ian’s rating of a 3 out of a potential 5 on the scale means that the storm is expected to bring widespread and substantial flooding. Structural damages to buildings such as mobile homes are also expected, as well as downed trees, power outages and major coastal inundation. The 4 rating for the northwest Caribbean means Ian is expected to bring widespread catastrophic flooding to the region, which may last days to weeks.
AccuWeather meteorologists discuss their latest forecast for Hurricane Ian at their State College headquarters on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.
Hurricane Ian tracks north in the Caribbean on Monday. (CIRA/NOAA/NESDIS)
Hurricane Ian strengthened to a Category 2 storm Monday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of up to 100 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, Ian was moving north-northwest at 13 mph toward Cuba, the NHC said. Ian is currently situated about 155 miles (250 km) southeast of the western tip of the island country.
Hurricane watches remained in effect for a stretch of Florida's western coast at midday on Monday as Ian continued to gain strength. AccuWeather forecasters warn that the storm will rapidly gain intensity during the next couple of days and is forecast to become a Category 4 behemoth in the Gulf of Mexico by midweek.
Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa, ordered mandatory evacuations from coastal communities on Monday that took effect at 2 p.m. EDT.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor cautioned residents of her city – the largest urban area in the path of Hurricane Ian – that the storm poses a “very serious situation” and could be “a potentially deadly” emergency weather event if people don’t heed warnings from officials.
“We always want to communicate with our residents that the issue that is always 100% in the winning column is Mother Nature and we don’t want to mess with that,” Castor told AccuWeather broadcaster meteorologists Geoff Cornish and Bernie Rayno.
Hillsborough County, of which Tampa is included, has already begun taking steps to prepare for Ian’s imminent arrival, such as ordering a mandatory evacuation of residents in low-lying coastal areas in Tampa and surrounding regions. “We’re telling homeowners and businesses, now is the time to get to higher ground,” Castor said. She explained that the city also is draining down certain areas in anticipation of forecast storm surges of 6 to 10 feet along the Gulf coast. “We’re draining our stormwater ponds, putting water over the dam …Trying to get as much water out of our city as we possibly can,” she said. The Tampa Bay area, she noted, is not immune to hurricane alerts and reminded Floridians “to stay vigilant, prepare as much as possible.”
“We like to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. We just don’t want to be on that main stage of Ian,” Castor said. “We always use the adage of ‘Hide from the rain, run from the water’.” Watch the full interview with the mayor below:
Hurricane Ian’s path will see a “fork in the road” after tracking over Cuba, with one directing the storm toward Florida’s Big Bend and the other steering Ian toward an area that hasn’t seen a major hurricane landfall for over a century. “It hinges on the strength of this trough coming across the Midwest,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. A trough is a region of relatively low atmospheric pressure.
When the trough lifts out, the steering flow will weaken and Ian will slow. However, even if Ian loses intensity, Rayno and AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski stressed the impacts would still be dangerous. “Just because it goes from a [Category] 4 to a [Category] 2, the surge will be like that of a four because it takes sometimes 24-36 hours to dissipate,” Kottlowski said. “Just because it weakens, doesn’t mean the surge will weaken. The surge could be just as strong as if it were a Cat 4.”
State officials are warning residents to be on the lookout for price-gouging at the pump, grocery stores and elsewhere, and have activated a hotline to report such abuse amid hurricane fears.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, of Florida, reminded people on Twitter Monday that “some people try to take advantage during emergencies” by promoting price-gouging schemes during emergency weather outbreaks. Floridians can report cases of severe price hikes on essential goods by calling a hotline set up by the state attorney general’s office -- 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.
Florida residents were filing up extra gasoline containers in preparation for Hurricane Ian. (AccuWeather)
Florida’s price-gouging law specifically applies during a state of emergency for common necessities, such as food, water, gas, ice and lumber.
The Federal Communications Commission said scammers often use a host of outlets for schemes, from phone calls and texts to email and even door-to-door scams. Tips to avoid scams include seeking verification from those claiming to be a federal official and remembering that agencies do not call or text asking for financial information. Verification is key, officials said, whether it is knowing you are dealing with a legitimate government official or insurance company representative.
Gouging of gasoline and other essential items is also common during the aftermath of hurricanes, officials said.
The outer bands of Hurricane Ian have begun to impact portions of Cuba as of Monday afternoon. The outer-most band of Ian is bringing precipitation to the southern portion of the country in cities such as Cruces, Calimete and Pinar Del Rio. As Monday progresses, another band is expected to bring more precipitation and high winds to southwestern Cuba.
Cayo Largo del Sur, a small Cuban island located just south of the main island, has already reported wind gusts over 30 mph as of 1:50 p.m. local time. AccuWeather forecasts Ian to make landfall in far western Cuba within the next 18 hours as a Category 3 hurricane.
Category 1 Hurricane Ian as seen on AccuWeather radar on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.
While Tampa has a history of being spared the worst of hurricanes, tropical systems have not left the area entirely untouched. Storm surge, or the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, is infamous for causing destruction even outside the path of a storm. More than a century ago, Tampa saw just that from the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane. Water rose 10.5 feet in downtown Tampa as the hurricane slammed into the coast north of the city, destroying a majority of the seawall and damaging buildings in the floodwater’s path. At the time, the population of the five-county area had been some 135,000 people, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The population has since expanded to 3.38 million in 2021, according to census data.
Track of the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane. (NOAA)
AccuWeather is currently forecasting the Tampa Bay Area to see 6 to 10 feet of storm surge. Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer has chased a number of ferocious hurricanes over the years, including 2021’s infamous Hurricane Ida. Now, Ian will be the next storm he documents. Timmer discussed the storm’s looming storm surge threat, adding that even if Hurricane Ian passes just to the west of the Tampa Bay area, it’s still going to cause flooding around the periphery.
Hurricane Ian continued to gain strength on Monday, as its maximum sustained winds were up to 85 mph, a 10 mph increase from Monday morning. Ian was located about 120 miles west-northwest of Grand Cayman Island and about 195 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba. The storm was moving to the west-northwest at a speed of 13 mph and its hurricane-force winds extended about 35 miles from the center. The government of the Cayman Islands has changed the hurricane warning for Grand Cayman to a tropical storm warning, the National Hurricane Center said.
Ian is forecast to undergo rapid intensification and become a powerful Category 4 hurricane Tuesday into Wednesday. But as Ian inches closer to Florida, it is forecast to weaken to a Category 2 hurricane. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that even though Ian will likely lose some intensity before making landfall, torrential downpours, destructive winds and storm surge will all still be major risks for people living in central and northern Florida.
Ian has been a named storm since it developed in the Caribbean Sea this past Friday and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Although Florida is the U.S. state facing the greatest danger from Ian, other parts of the Southeast, and even states up into the Northeast, will face some impacts from the storm. Although it will be considerably weaker after moving over land later this week and into the weekend, Ian is still predicted by AccuWeather forecasters to bring a substantial flood risk as a tropical storm and eventually a tropical depression.
“Ian will slow down over the Southeast states, but as long as it maintains some forward speed, rainfall will be heavy but not over the top,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. “However, if Ian stalls over the Southeast for a day or two, there is the potential for much heavier rainfall to fall over a broad area, including interior locations.” AccuWeather meteorologists say widespread rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches are expected through much of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Virginia, including in the Appalachian Mountains. Cities such as Roanoke, Virginia, to Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, could all receive several inches of rain.
School districts in the Tampa and Sarasota area of Florida are canceling classes for thousands of students to allow officials to prepare school buildings as emergency shelters for when Hurricane Ian strikes. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, closed its schools Monday and Sarasota County, located just to the south, announced it was closing its schools Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.” It’s unclear how long they will need to be closed, although officials anticipated needing the buildings at least through Thursday. In all, 312 schools will be closed.
Hillsborough County school buses will help transport evacuees to shelters while nutrition staff will prepare meals for those at the shelters, WFLA reported. “As we continue monitoring Hurricane Ian’s track and potential impacts, residents are encouraged to review their emergency plans and prepare their go-kits,” said Jonathan Lewis, Sarasota County administrator.
Officials in Hillsborough County, which includes the Tampa area, on Monday ordered mandatory evacuations in anticipation of Hurricane Ian, which is forecast to make landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida by Thursday morning.
The order takes effect at 2 p.m. Monday for those living in coastal Zone A. Also, emergency management officials are recommending a voluntary evacuation for those living more inland in Zone B. “This is not a drill,” Hillsborough Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley said during a morning news conference, adding that shelters won’t open until 2 p.m. and that residents should not show up before then.
Map of evacuation zones for Hillsborough County, Florida. (Hillsborough County Emergency Management)
Hillsborough County has five evacuation zones, and officials were directing residents to its website to double-check which zone they are located in. Within minutes, the site was down due to the heavy traffic on the site. “Please be patient, the website is experiencing a high influx of traffic and load times may vary,” Tampa officials posted on social media.
A mandatory evacuation order for at least some zones was also expected by Tuesday in nearby Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater, officials said Monday.
Hurricane Ian is taking a course toward Florida’s western shore after it made a northeastward curve in the Caribbean, according to AccuWeather forecasters. There have been roughly 160 hurricanes, not including tropical storms, that have affected Florida, according to a historic database provided by NOAA. Of these 160, only 17 have made landfall on Florida’s west coast, north of the Florida Keys. With Ian's path projected to stay along Florida's west coast, AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell described it as "very unusual track," adding that most storms typically travel northeast or northwest, not up the coast.
While there have not been as many landfalls on the state’s western coast, that’s not to say that the storms that crashed ashore there didn’t pack a punch. Several historic landfalls from Irma in 2017 to the major hurricanes Michael (2018), Charley (2004) and Wilma (2005) have slammed the western side of Florida, endangering lives and causing catastrophic damage.
For Florida, major impacts from Hurricane Ian are likely to come in the form of extremely heavy rain and destructive wind. The heaviest rainfall is expected to fall east of the Ian’s center and because of this, cities such as Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville could all have a general 4-8 inches of rainfall, with locally higher amounts. Rainfall of this intensity can easily lead to street and river flooding, especially in low-lying areas. Winds associated with Ian will arrive in southern Florida by Tuesday afternoon and central Florida by Wednesday morning.
Peak wind gusts will range from 60 to 120 mph from Tampa to Tallahassee. The winds are expected to produce widespread damage, as well as long-lasting power outages. Susceptible infrastructure may also suffer major damage in western Cuba and into parts of the western coast of Florida. AccuWeather forecasters say that an increase in wind shear across the northern half of the Gulf of Mexico could act to decrease the hurricane’s wind intensity as it nears land.
NASA officials said Monday that the Artemis I rocket and Orion spacecraft will be moved into the agency’s vehicle assembly building to keep them out of the harsh weather that Hurricane Ian is forecast to deliver as well as give NASA employees time to prepare for the storm. Officials said that the process to move the spacecraft would begin at 11 p.m. Monday.
“Managers met Monday morning and made the decision based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area," NASA officials said. “The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system. The time of first motion also is based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move.” Rolling the massive rocket back to the vehicle assembly building will once again delay the maiden voyage of NASA’s newest moon-bound rocket. NASA has yet to announce a new launch date.
In this photo provided by NASA, Crawler Transporter-2 is seen outside the gates at Launch Pad 39B as teams configure systems for rolling NASA's moon rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Sept. 24, 2022, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA mission managers decided Monday, Sept. 26, to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter due to Hurricane Ian's uncertain path. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Ian was a Category 1 storm in the Caribbean Sea, located about 90 miles west-southwest of the island of Grand Cayman and about 275 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba. Ian is expected to undergo a period of rapid intensification, a process defined by the National Hurricane Center as when a tropical cyclone’s maximum sustained winds increase by at least 35 mph (30 knots) in a 24-hour period.
By Tuesday morning, AccuWeather meteorologists say Ian will be a Category 3 hurricane near the western edge of Cuba and eventually a Category 4 storm later this week. That means Ian’s maximum sustained winds could jump from 75 mph Monday to anywhere from 111 to 129 mph Tuesday morning, which is the range of a Category 3 storm’s winds according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The last time there was a Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico was in August 2021, when Hurricane Ida was churning over the waters.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents to make preparations as soon as possible. While the exact point of landfall isn't certain yet, DeSantis said it is important to make preparations regardless. "Don't think if you're not in that eye that somehow you don't have to make preparations, because the last thing we want to see is it start to really bear east quickly and then have folks who are not prepared," DeSantis said in a press conference Sunday.
The governor also noted there will be broad impacts throughout Florida so residents should "not only continue these preparedness efforts but also take the time to know their zone and know their home." A state of emergency has been declared for the entire state of Florida and an emergency was declared for the state by President Joe Biden.
As Ian continues to strengthen and inch closer to Florida, hurricane and tropical storm watches have been put in place. In western Cuba, a hurricane warning has been put in place ahead of Ian’s landfall. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of central Cuba. In Florida, a hurricane watch spans from just north of Tampa to just south of Sarasota. Farther south, a tropical storm watch is in effect for Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples. A storm surge watch stretches from the Everglades National Park, along the west coast of Florida to Palm Harbor, which is just north of Tampa. Key West and surrounding islands are under a tropical storm warning as of Monday morning.
As Ian treks through the Caribbean, its eye will largely avoid an area known to wear tropical systems down. Referred to as the hurricane graveyard, the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola and eastern Cuba can prove to be difficult for storms to move through without falling apart to some extent.
However, Ian is currently steering toward western Cuba, which has, relatively, less mountainous terrain. For this reason, AccuWeather forecasters believe the terrain may have a minimal effect on the overall strength of the storm before it enters the bathlike waters to the north of the island.
At 5 a.m. EDT, Ian strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane in the Caribbean Sea with sustained winds of 75 mph. Ian was moving northwest at 14 mph and was located about 90 miles southwest of Grand Cayman Island and 315 miles southeast of the western tip of Cuba.
As Ian moves into the western Caribbean, conditions are set to be extremely favorable for strengthening, AccuWeather forecasters warn. “By Tuesday, Ian may be a dangerous major hurricane,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty explained. Ian is the fourth storm to reach hurricane status so far this season in the Atlantic, joining Danielle, Earl and Fiona.
Residents across Tampa, Florida, had a beautiful weekend with plentiful sunshine just days before the impacts of Hurricane Ian are forecast to be felt across the region. Temperatures Saturday were around 90 degrees, while Sunday temperatures remained in the upper 80s. Monday will be similar to Sunday which will give those in the area the perfect weather to put final preparations in place in anticipation of Ian on Wednesday.
Hurricane Ian will be the latest first continental hurricane landfall of the season in the United States in 20 years. The last time the mainland U.S. had its first landfalling hurricane this late in the season was when Hurricane Lili made landfall near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, on Oct. 3, 2002. Lili was the first and only hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. during the 2002 season. Since then, there have been a handful of seasons that produced zero hurricane landfalls in the continental U.S., most recently in 2013 and 2016.
Hurricane Lili is seen on satellite making landfall in Louisiana on Oct. 3, 2002. (Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team,NASA/GSFC)
The formation of Tropical Storm Ian on Friday brought the seasonal total of named storms in the Atlantic basin so far this year to nine. The 2022 season has been slower than average in terms of tropical storm formation. By mid-September in the hyperactive 2020 season, the full list of predetermined storm names had been exhausted and meteorologists were forced to dip into the Greek alphabet to name storms. That practice was discontinued prior to the start of the 2021 season, which was also quite active. At this point last year, forecasters were on the S storm, which turned out to be Hurricane Sam, a powerful and long-lived storm that stayed out to sea.
This season also went the entire month without a named storm in August, a rare feat that has only happened twice before since the satellite era began in 1960. The season started to see an uptick in activity on Sept. 1 when Danielle formed, the first named storm in the Atlantic since Colin in early July. An average hurricane season according to NOAA is one that has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. AccuWeather meteorologists have predicted there will be up to 12 named storms for the 2022 season, which runs through Nov. 30.
AccuWeather RealVue™ Satellite image of Ian when it was a tropical storm.