September 26, 2022 Florida braces for Hurricane Ian

By Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 7:11 a.m. ET, September 27, 2022
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3:43 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

National Hurricane Center director calls Ian forecast a "near worst-case scenario" for the Tampa area

From CNN's Jennifer Gray and Brandon Miller

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.

3:26 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Rain from Hurricane Ian has started to move through Key West

Rain showers and thunderstorms from "the outermost rainbands of Hurricane Ian" have started to move through Key West, the National Weather Service tweeted Monday.

"Conditions will continue to deteriorate from here on," the tweet added.

See the tweet:

3:31 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Tampa mayor says she wants "everyone to understand the seriousness of this situation"

From CNN's Maria Cartaya

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. (CNN)

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor held a press conference on Monday afternoon to address the city’s preparedness for Hurricane Ian. 

Castor talked about the possible dangers of storm surges, saying “we are looking at the possibility of having a 10-to-15-foot storm surge.” 

“Clearly, that would be very devastating for our community,” said Castor. 

Castor advised residents to heed the warnings and not “make decisions at the last minute.” 

“We can never accurately predict these storms. It’s mother nature, and the one element that wins 100% of the time is mother nature,” said Castor. 

“Right now, the prediction is we are going to be impacted by Hurricane Ian,” added Castor. 

Earlier in the day, evacuation orders were announced for parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. Castor said 49 shelters are open, including some accepting pets and others accommodating residents with special needs. 

“The city of Tampa is prepared, and we want to make sure that all of our citizens are prepared,” said Castor. 

Castor advised the public to stay informed by signing up for update alerts as “things can change minute by minute.” 

On Monday, the City of Tampa’s Citizen Information Line was activated to help residents with “urgent questions regarding the storm.” Residents can call the center for immediate assistance until 8 p.m. ET on Monday, and every other day from 8 a.m. ET until midnight until further notice. 

“This is going to be a storm like we have never seen in the past,” said Castor, adding, “I want everyone to understand the seriousness of this situation."

“We’re not trying to instill fear. We’re just asking everyone to be responsible, to be cognitive of what this storm can bring us,” said Castor. 
3:03 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Mandatory evacuations ordered in Pinellas County, Florida

Florida's Pinellas County has announced a mandatory evacuation order for some of its residents beginning today at 6 p.m. ET.

"Effective 6 p.m. today, all residents in Evacuation Zone A (including all mobile home residents) will be under mandatory evacuation orders," the county said in a tweet, which included a detailed map of the zones.

It added that all residential health care facilities in Pinellas County will be under mandatory evacuation orders starting today as well.

The county said that mandatory orders for evacuation zones B and C will be "effective tomorrow morning at 7 a.m."

See the evacuation zone map here:

3:00 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Climate change is causing hurricanes to intensify faster than ever

From CNN's Angela Fritz and Rachel Ramirez

Hurricane Ian is strengthening rapidly as it passes over the ultra-warm waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center had predicted the system would rapidly intensify from a tropical storm to at least a Category 4 hurricane in less than 72 hours.

It is an unprecedented forecast, experts told CNN, but one scientist says it is becoming more likely as the climate crisis advances, pushing ocean temperatures higher and laying the groundwork for tropical storms to explode at breakneck pace into deadly major hurricanes. 

Rapid intensification is precisely what it sounds like — a hurricane's winds strengthening rapidly over a short amount of time. Scientists have defined it as a wind speed increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less. 

The phenomenon played out with breathtaking speed in the Philippines this weekend. Super Typhoon Noru exploded in strength on its final approach toward the Pacific island nation, going from the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 overnight as residents around Manila slept.

Noru's rapid intensification right before landfall — which was not predicted — likely meant locals had no time prepare for the much stronger storm. 

Hurricane Ian's has been in the forecast for days, giving Cuba and Florida the benefit of time. Winds in the storm increased from 45 mph Sunday evening to 80 mph late Monday morning, and more strengthening is in the forecast. Ian could intensify into at least a Category 4 before it makes landfall in Florida midweek.

Rapid intensification has historically been a rare phenomenon, according to Allison Wing, an assistant professor of atmospheric science at Florida State University.

It "is really sort of at the extreme end of how quickly storms can intensify," Wing told CNN. "Only something like 6% or so of all forecast time periods have those types of rapid intensification rates observed associated with them. And so it's something that's by definition, a rare event. Sometimes it only happens a few times per season."

Read more about this here.

2:41 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Here's how Hurricane Ian could impact Tampa Bay

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Hurricane Ian is projected to make the closest pass to Tampa Bay by 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 along Tampa Bay. This track puts all of the Tampa Bay region (i.e. Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Bradenton) on the right side of the storm, which would push water into Tampa Bay, maximizing the inundation from storm surge.

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 allows more water to pile up from the continued push of the wind into the Bay and other coastal locations. It also prolongs the impacts of wind and rain.

The population facing the likelihood of at least tropical storm-force winds is more than 15 million, which includes all of the Tampa metro area, as well as other cities such as Orlando, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

2:35 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Hurricane Ian has officially undergone rapid intensification

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Ian has already undergone official rapid intensification — at least a 35 mph increase in winds in 24 hours. The storm is expected to continue further strengthening over the next 24+ hours.

National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasters have confidence in the potential for Ian's explosive growth.

The NHC forecast for Ian has shown an unprecedented rate of strengthening from a tropical storm to a powerful hurricane with winds increasing faster than in any previous forecast produced for any other tropical storm.

2:02 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Evacuation orders are now in effect for parts of Tampa

It's 2 p.m. ET and Hillsborough County's mandatory evacuations are now in effect as the Tampa Bay area braces for Hurricane Ian.

Earlier today Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise announced zone A would be put under mandatory evacuation orders starting at 2 p.m. ET today. In the map below, the red area is zone A.

Wise also said voluntary evacuations are recommended for zone B, the orange area on the map.

Ian is currently barreling toward western Cuba, bringing potentially life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds. Meteorologists expect Ian to peak at Category 4 strength over the Gulf of Mexico later this week, then weaken before reaching Florida.

2:18 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Tampa-area universities cancel classes as Florida braces for storm

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

The University of Tampa will be closed for a week beginning Monday, the school announced Sunday. 

Stetson Law, Florida's first law school, will close its Gulfport and Tampa Law Center campuses Tuesday through Thursday, according to a tweet Monday afternoon.  

Saint Leo University, a small private university in Pasco County, has made the decision to move to online classes from Monday through Friday, said school officials.

On Sunday, University of South Florida (USF) officials announced the campus will close Tuesday and classes will be canceled Monday through Thursday due to Tropical Storm Ian's potential impacts to the Tampa Bay region.

"The path of the storm remains highly unpredictable and could change in the coming days. That said, the safety of our students, faculty and staff is our highest priority as we track the storm," said a weather update from university officials.