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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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.

 

1:48 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Tampa-area Catholic schools and Citrus County schools to close ahead of Hurricane Ian 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Citrus County Schools, north of Tampa and St. Petersburg on Florida's west coast, will close Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Hurricane Ian, district officials announced Monday. 

District officials are working closely with the Citrus County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to prepare for the potential impacts of Hurricane Ian, according to a press release from the school.  

"After the most recent emergency operations meeting, it has been determined to close schools”, said district officials. Schools will be closed on both Wednesday and Thursday. After-school programs and activities are canceled beginning Tuesday, said the press release. 

"Many factors are considered when EOC activates shelters, and our school district plays a vital role in the EOC's response," said Citrus County School officials.  

Catholic schools in the Tampa area also announced closures ahead of Ian.

"Based on the latest forecast, Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg will be closed from Tuesday through Thursday, according to the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. "This includes Catholic schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties," said a storm update from the diocese.   

Other schools scheduled to close Tuesday and Wednesday include Pinellas County, Pasco CountyManatee County and Hernando Schools.  

Hillsborough County schools are closes beginning today, CNN has reported. 

1:37 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Tampa International Airport remains operational

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson and Paul P. Murphy

Tampa International Airport (TPA) remains operational and is making preparations for Hurricane Ian, according to a news release from TPA.

In the next 24 to 48 hours, TPA might begin shutting down facilities and its airfield as the weather becomes more severe and wind speeds increase, officials said.

At 40 mph sustained winds, SkyConnect and airside shuttles with stop or reduce and airport operations will stop at 50 mph sustained winds, the release said.

“While TPA is in an evacuation zone, as critical infrastructure, the Airport is exempt from the storm evacuation order and will stay open until a closure is necessary,” the release states. “The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which operates TPA and three General Aviation airports, remains in close coordination with the National Weather Service, our airlines and other airport partners, and will give travelers and the community as much notice as possible when that determination is made.”
2:24 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Tampa Bay Lightning games postponed

Two preseason Tampa Bay Lightning games have been postponed as the Tampa Bay area braces for Hurricane Ian.

Wednesday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes and Thursday's game against the Nashville Predators have both been postponed. They were scheduled to be played at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.

1:21 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

7,000 National Guard soldiers activated ahead of Hurricane Ian 

From CNN's Jaide Garcia 

The Florida National Guard has activated 5,000 Florida soldiers and 2,000 additional soldiers from Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

The 7,000 guardsmen is an increase from the 2,500 activated and announced by DeSantis on Sunday.

As of Monday, the storm is located approximately 375 miles south of Key West and has a diameter of 500 miles wide. It's moving northwest towards the Gulf of Mexico at about 14 mph with maximum sustained winds of up to 80 mph, DeSantis said.

Jim Eifert, the head of Florida's National Guard, said they are "fully engaged with every resource available," and have also been in contact with Kentucky and Louisiana to provide additional resources. 

DeSantis warned of the impact Hurricane Ian is anticipated to bring on Florida's Gulf Coast, including heavy rain, strong wind, flash flooding and storm surge, telling Gulf Coast residents they should feel the impact of the storm up to 36 hours before landfall. 

"You will see storm surge in places like southwest Florida even though the storm is projected to be 100-150 miles off the coast from southwest Florida," the governor said. 

In addition to the 7,000 soldiers activated by the National Guard, five FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams have also been activated and the Fish and Wildlife Commission has been mobilized, DeSantis said, adding that 210 medical professionals have been assigned to Hillsborough County's special needs shelters and 300 ambulances have been assigned to support special needs evacuations in the Tampa Bay area.

Gov. DeSantis is scheduled to hold another news conference in Largo, Florida, this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET.

1:04 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Sarasota County public schools will close Tuesday

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Out of an abundance of caution, Sarasota County Schools will close on Tuesday, according to a message on the district's website.

The closing will also allow schools that serve as emergency evacuation centers time to get prepared, the message added.

The message said the county is expected to announce an evacuation alert for Level A Tuesday morning.

“As the storm approaches, we are here to serve our community with our schools and personnel to provide sheltering. We will continue to communicate updates with employees and families throughout the storm as information becomes available. The latest information can be found on our website (www.sarasotacountyschools.net/hurricane) and all our social media channels,” Dr. Brennan Asplen, superintendent of schools said in the message.
1:05 p.m. ET, September 26, 2022

Western Florida is "very, very vulnerable to storm surge," NHC official says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Acting director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Jamie Rhome speaks at a press conference on Monday.
Acting director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Jamie Rhome speaks at a press conference on Monday. (WFOR)

Several evacuations have already been issued for Florida cities and counties in the potential path of Hurricane Ian, and more orders will be issued "maybe later today," said acting director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) Jamie Rhome. 

"We now need people to start taking action," said Rhome at a joint press briefing Monday with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "So many times, we see people second guess ... evacuation instructions, and it often will cost them dearly."

There are two concerns for the Tampa Bay area, which is forecast to experience storm impacts Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Rhome.

"The first and foremost, it hasn't had a major hurricane impact in a long, long time. So, we have a lot of coastal residents that probably don't have a ton of experience with major hurricanes," he said, adding that the second concern is "the west coast of Florida is incredibly vulnerable to storm surge—very, very vulnerable to storm surge." 

"We're indicating the potential for as much as is 10 feet of storm surge in portions of the Florida west coast," he said, pointing to a pole to show the potential height of the surge.