Tampa is preparing for what could be its first direct hurricane hit in a hundred years with parts of the city under mandatory evacuations as residents brace for Hurricane Ian's impact.
The massive storm moving over Cuba this morning is expected to gain strength as it heads for the Florida coast. Storm surges along Florida's west coast are expected to reach five to 10 feet in some areas.
"We expect to have to evacuate over 300,000 people and it will take some time," declared Florida's Hillsborough County Administrator Bonny Wise early this week.
“Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said on Monday.
Many Floridians are scrambling to board up their homes, fill up sandbags, stock up on essentials, or evacuate. A Tampa hospital in the evacuation zone put up protective aqua fencing designed to keep the water out so they don't have to evacuate patients.
Hurricane & Tropical Storm Warnings for #Ian are in effect for much of the west coast of Florida. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. Today is your last day to prepare and follow evacuation orders from local officials. https://t.co/cy01fM7Od6 pic.twitter.com/qAwQAHpjDG
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 27, 2022
Florida is under a state of emergency with almost every area expected to feel Ian's impact of high winds and flooding. Around 7,000 National Guard members have already been activated in the state.
"What I'm most worried about are the facts, the fact that these storms are so unpredictable," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
Operation Blessing is on the ground in the Tampa area ready to help in the days to come.
"Thanks to the support of Operation Blessing's partners we are able to be here ready to support the local community who will undoubtedly be affected by this storm," said David Wright from Operation Blessing.
As Hurricane Ian inches closer to Florida, NASA scrubbed its planned Artemis One launch, rolling back the $4 billion rocket from the launch pad.
Just before dawn Tuesday, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. It's expected to reach Category 4 strength with top winds of 140 mph as it travels over the warm waters of the Gulf. It could reach Florida as early as Wednesday.
As Ian slows down over the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to grow wider and stronger, "which will have the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along the west coast of Florida,” the hurricane center said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency. “You have a significant storm that may end up being a Category 4 hurricane," DeSantis said. "That’s going to cause a huge amount of storm surge. You’re going to have flood events. You’re going to have a lot of different impacts.”