For residents in the Tampa Bay area, “it's time to stop looking on the internet and hoping that it'll go away. It's time to start acting,” Jamie Rhome, the National Hurricane Center acting director, tells CNN.
The current forecast track for Hurricane Ian puts all of the Tampa Bay region on the right side of the storm, which would see winds push water northward into Tampa Bay, maximizing the inundation from storm surge. The current storm surge forecast for this area is up to 10 feet.
If this storm track and intensity materializes, he warns residents that “this is a near worst case approach angle coming in from the south and west and stalling,” Rhome said. “With it slowing down, this would be a near worst case approach angle.”
The forward speed of the storm as it passes Tampa on Wednesday into Thursday is less than 5 mph — about 1/3 of the current forward speed of Ian. This slow speed, in combination with the intensity of the storm could be devastating for this region.
“This would be the storm of a lifetime for many Tampa Bay residents,” he added.
“We're at the action phase. We're no longer at the ponder phase or think about it phase or hope it goes away phase. We're at the action phase,” said Rhome.
Ian is projected to be the closest pass to Tampa Bay for a major hurricane since 1950. The current track puts the center of Ian passing within 25 miles west of the coastline as it parallels the coast.