The hurricane’s menacing approach to Florida triggered preparations across the state as officials announced school closures and flight cancellations, and the military began moving ships and aircraft.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of power outages as well as possible evacuations and fuel shortages, telling people to “make preparations now.”
All along Florida’s west coast, officials are urging residents to get out of harm’s way instead of staying to protect their property. “This is nothing to mess around with. If you can leave, just leave now,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said Monday.
“When we issued that mandatory evacuation, what that means is if you don’t and you call for help, we’re not coming because we’re not going to put our people in harm’s way and put them in peril because you didn’t listen to what we told you to do,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Evacuation orders also went into effect for low-lying areas of Charlotte County as well as the counties of Sarasota, Hernando and Manatee.
Floridians should expect more evacuations Tuesday for counties north of the bay, inland and some south of the bay, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
With tropical storm conditions possibly beginning Tuesday night, officials are concerned about Ian’s storm surge – a rise in water level caused by a strong storm’s wind pushing water onshore.
A storm surge warning is effect for the Anclote River southward to Flamingo and Tampa Bay, where the inundation of water could reach 10 feet.
The Tampa Bay region is particularly vulnerable to storm surge and could see catastrophic damage from flooding – even if the area doesn’t get a direct hit from the hurricane.
Tampa Electric said it may have to proactively shut down power in the southern tip of downtown early Wednesday in an effort to “avoid serious damage to the underground equipment from saltwater storm surge, which will significantly shorten restoration time after the storm.”
Tampa Bay International Airport will suspend operations at 5 p.m. Tuesday, DeSantis said Monday. The Port of Tampa Bay is also planning to suspend operations at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the governor said.
Around the state, residents were queuing in long lines Monday to fill up bags of sand or pick up bottled water in preparation for the storm’s arrival.
Resident Khadijah Jones told CNN she was in line for three hours Monday to get free sandbags in Tampa, uncertain if her home will flood.
“Just doing the basics… securing loose materials in the yard, sandbags in low areas, and getting items to prep for no power,” she said.
As the storm approaches a slew of closures and cancellations have been announced.
The HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg announced it has suspended services and transferred patients.
Colleges and universities across the state – like Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and University of South Florida in Tampa – are taking steps to prepare, including campus evacuations or a shift to online classes.
On the K-12 level, Hillsborough County Schools said it had “no choice” but to cancel classes as campuses become storm shelters. And surrounding counties, including Citrus, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando have also announced closures this week.
Disney World announced some temporary resort closures from Wednesday through Friday due to the weather conditions. At least three cruise lines also began rerouting passengers due to the hurricane.