Hurricane May Be Category 4 When It Hits Florida

Tampa, other coastal areas brace for Ian on Wednesday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 26, 2022 2:14 PM CDT
Floridians Make Sandbags as Mighty Ian Gets Close
Victoria Colson, 31, of Tampa loads sandbags into her truck along with other Tampa residents who waited for over 2 hours at Himes Avenue Complex to fill their 10 free sandbags on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.   (Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Hurricane Ian was growing stronger as it approached the western tip of Cuba on a track to hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane as early as Wednesday, per the AP. Ian was forecast to hit Cuba and then become an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking Florida. As of Monday, Tampa and St. Petersburg appeared to be the among the most likely targets for their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“Please treat this storm seriously," Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said in Tampa. "This is not a drill." Ian won't linger over Cuba, but it will slow down over the Gulf of Mexico, growing wider and stronger, "which will have the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along the west coast of Florida," the National Hurricane Center said. A surge of up to 10 feet of ocean water and 10 inches of rain was predicted across the Tampa Bay area, with as much as 15 inches in isolated areas. That's enough water to inundate coastal communities.

As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said. Some of those evacuations were beginning Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other locations opening as shelters. Floridians lined up for hours in Tampa over the weekend to collect bags of sand, and they cleared store shelves of bottled water. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a statewide emergency.

(More hurricanes stories.)

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