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Hurricane Ian intensifies, Tampa Bay still in sight

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After intensifying overnight into a hurricane, Ian continued to grow stronger and more organized, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. update, and forecasters expect the storm to be stronger. a major hurricane overnight or early Tuesday.

Hours after the hurricane center upgraded the hurricane watch and storm surge watch issued for Tampa Bay to a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning, Tampa Bay remained firmly in the cone forecast for the storm in the 23-hour update from the hurricane center.

Related: Monday Live Updates: Hurricane Ian Heads For Tampa Bay, Evacuations Ordered

Forecasters said there was still uncertainty over Ian’s track, which heads slightly east in the latest projection. But the system is still expected to be a major hurricane when it hits Florida’s west coast.

Hurricane Ian was about 105 miles east-southeast of the western tip of Cuba, according to the 11 p.m. update. The storm was moving north-northwest at about 13 mph and had sustained winds near 105 mph, with higher gusts.

Ian is expected to briefly sweep across western Cuba on Monday evening or early Tuesday, then move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico – rapidly intensifying in the next 24 to 36 hours to become a Category 4 storm, said declared the hurricane center.

The system will start to weaken a little after that, but forecasters said Ian is expected to stay at or near major hurricane strength as it passes west of the Florida Keys before heading towards the west coast. from Florida, including the Tampa Bay area, Wednesday through Thursday.

The hurricane center update says data shows Ian will slow significantly as it approaches Florida’s west coast, bringing with it longer bouts of rain, wind and storm surge.

The hurricane warning covered Englewood to the Anclote River, which includes the entire Tampa Bay area. The hurricane center said west-central Florida could experience significant flooding and a storm surge warning is in effect for Tampa Bay and the Anclote River area, extending south to to Flamingo.

A hurricane warning is issued when conditions are expected in the given area within 24 to 36 hours. Forecasters urged residents to complete preparations quickly to protect their lives and property.

According to the 11 p.m. update, much of Florida’s west coast — from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay area — is threatened by a “life-threatening storm surge.”

Heavy rains from Ian will intensify over the Florida Keys and southern Florida on Tuesday, moving into central and northern Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, potentially causing flash, urban and small stream flooding , the hurricane center said. Ian could dump 6 to 12 inches of rain over parts of west-central Florida, according to the 11 p.m. update.

Tampa Bay could be hit by a 5- to 10-foot storm surge, National Hurricane Center acting director Jamie Rhome said in a video posted late Monday morning.

The wide predicted surge range is because forecasters still don’t know where Ian’s center will be when the storm passes through Tampa Bay. If Ian’s center stays further offshore, then Tampa Bay could see about a 5-foot storm surge, but if Ian gets closer to shore, we could see an astonishing 10-foot storm surge, according to Rhome.

“I want to end on this, unless you’re behind me in this building, you’re not a hurricane expert. If emergency officials order you to leave, you must do so, no questions asked and without delay,” Rhome said.

The National Hurricane Center chart shows possible storm surges on Florida’s west coast. Tampa Bay has the potential to see devastating storm surges of up to 10 feet, according to the hurricane center. [ The National Hurricane Center ]

In addition to the Tampa Bay area, a hurricane warning was also in effect for Dry Tortugas and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.

A hurricane watch has been issued for the area north of the Anclote River to the Suwannee River and for Bonita Beach to Englewood.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Havana, Mayabeque and Matanzas, as well as for the lower Florida Keys – from the Seven Mile Bridge west to Key West – and from Flamingo to Englewood.

The hurricane center has issued a tropical storm watch for the area north of the Anclote River to Indian Pass, Jupiter Inlet to Altamaha Sound, Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Keys, Seven Mile Bridge to Channel 5 Bridge .

The hurricane center said Ian could bring hurricane-force winds, strong storm surges, flash flooding and possible landslides to parts of western Cuba starting Monday evening.

Spectrum Bay News 9 forecasters said Ian could slow down around the time it parallels Florida’s west coast. The downside scenario would mean Tampa Bay would experience hurricane-like conditions for a longer period of time, according to Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker.

Tropical storm conditions could begin as early as Wednesday morning south of Tampa Bay and last through Thursday evening north of Tampa Bay, Linker wrote in an update posted around 5:45 a.m.

The Spectrum Bay News 9 forecast shows the expected track and strength of Hurricane Ian as it heads toward the Tampa Bay coast.
The Spectrum Bay News 9 forecast shows the expected track and strength of Hurricane Ian as it heads toward the Tampa Bay coast. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]

Another issue, Linker said, is that if Ian slows down, some areas could see more than 10 inches of rain.

“With soil already saturated and rivers near summer rainy season flood stage, freshwater flooding can be a problem,” Linker said.

Tampa Bay began its storm preparations last weekend amid warnings from officials including Gov. Ron DeSantis, President Joe Biden and local leaders.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida’s 67 counties on Saturday. Biden also declared a state emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Pinellas officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents who live in Area A, starting at 6 p.m. Monday. Residents of Areas B and C will be subject to a mandatory evacuation order starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Hillsborough County orders a mandatory evacuation zone for Zone A residents and recommends voluntary evacuation for Zone B. Hillsborough residents can find their evacuation zones here.

Tampa Bay area governments opened sandbag locations over the weekend.

Local colleges and schools began announcing closures on Sunday. Hillsborough County public schools are closed until Thursday. The Pinellas and Pasco public school districts will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The Bay Pines VA Health Care System also announced multiple closures, from Port Charlotte to Pinellas County.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times 2022 Hurricane Guide

IT’S THE SEASON OF STORMS: Prepare and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

GROWING THREAT: Tampa Bay is going to be flooded. Here’s how to prepare.

RECHECK: Checklists for Building All Kinds of Hurricane Kits

PHONE HIM: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-ADMINISTERED CARE: Protect your sanity during a hurricane.

• • •

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times has teamed up with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay is at huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the risk of hurricane flooding.