Sep 27, 2022 - News

Hurricane Ian strengthens to Category 3 as it draws a bead on Tampa Bay

Data: National Hurricane Center; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios
Data: National Hurricane Center; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

The last time Tampa Bay took a direct hit from a major hurricane was more than 100 years ago.

  • That might change this week.

The latest: The storm is getting stronger. As of 5am, Ian was a Category 3 hurricane producing maximum sustained winds of 125mph with some higher gusts.

  • Yes, but: It wasn’t expected to strengthen much more as it slashes across western Cuba today at 12mph.

What we’re watching: A turn toward the north-northeast after it clears Cuba with a reduction in forward speed. Ian should emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later this morning and pass west of the Florida Keys later today.

  • We should start seeing tropical storm conditions in the Tampa Bay area by tonight and hurricane conditions when we wake up tomorrow.

Why it matters: The decisions you make right now are crucial because weather conditions will soon start to deteriorate.

  • You need to have all preparations done by later today.

What to expect:

Storm surge, if it comes at high tide, could push water 5 to 10 feet higher between Longboat Key to the south and the Anclote River to our north — all of Tampa Bay.

  • Storm surge is expected to be a few feet lower south of Longboat and north of the Anclote.

Wind will pick up later today, reaching tropical storm levels by evening and hurricane strength by tomorrow morning.

  • The National Hurricane Center warns that tornadoes are possible across Florida starting today.

Rainfall: Per NHC’s 5am update, Central Florida could get 12 to 16 inches of rain.

  • Widespread flash flooding and urban flooding are expected across the state.

State of play: Officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties have ordered evacuations in their A zones.

  • Hillsborough is recommending voluntary evacuation for Zone B.
  • Pinellas residents in Zones B and C are under evacuation orders starting at 7am today.
  • Pasco County ordered evacuations in its A, B and C zones.
  • Find your evacuation zone by address.
  • Tampa International Airport is suspending operations at 5pm today.

Between the power lines: Duke Energy and Florida Power and Light have about 22,000 workers ready to address anticipated power outages, News Service of Florida reports, with workers coming from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey and Delaware.

  • Last year, Duke invested in grid automation and "self-healing technology" that can detect and reroute power to reduce the number of customers affected by outages, similarly to how GPS systems reroute traffic around an accident, the company said in a release.

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