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Tuesday updates: Tampa Bay in final hours of prep as Hurricane Ian nears

Forecasts now show the storm hitting south of Tampa Bay, and much of the area has been removed from the cone. But powerful storm surge warnings remain.
Kiwi, a parakeet, arrives with his family at one of Hillsborough County’s pet-friendly shelters in preparation for Hurricane Ian at Durant High in Plant City on Tuesday.
Kiwi, a parakeet, arrives with his family at one of Hillsborough County’s pet-friendly shelters in preparation for Hurricane Ian at Durant High in Plant City on Tuesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 27|Updated Sep. 28

Our live updates for Tuesday have concluded. A new live updates post for Wednesday is now available.

Hurricane Ian is making its way toward southwest Florida, and time to prepare for severe storm conditions is running out.

The Tampa Bay region has been under a hurricane warning since Monday evening, meaning residents could expect to see hurricane conditions by Wednesday. Experts are urging residents to take Ian seriously, noting it could be a “potential historic catastrophe.”

Related: WEDNESDAY UPDATES: Hurricane Ian forecast to hit Florida today

Ian is projected to make landfall at the border of Charlotte and Lee counties Wednesday afternoon or evening, “likely” as a Category 4 storm, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday night.

But Floridians in southwest Florida will start to experience extreme winds and storm surge well before then, he warned.

”There will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge on the Gulf Coast region,” DeSantis said.

Currently, the storm is projected to leave the state from Volusia County sometime Friday morning, subjecting most of the state to high winds and heavy rain, he said.

”This is a lot of nasty weather that we’re in store for over the next few days,” he said.

Already, the state has seen multiple tornadoes — two radar-indicated tornados in Kings Point in Palm Beach County and possible tornados in Hollywood, in Broward County, DeSantis said. Residents should heed tornado warnings by sheltering in an interior room away from windows and doors.

Floridians who haven’t left evacuation areas should do so immediately, DeSantis said. Hotels still have occupancy available in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and in the Panhandle, from Tallahassee to Pensacola. Information on occupancy can be found at Expedia.com/Florida, he said, and shelters can be found in each county at https://www.floridadisaster.org/shelters.

DeSantis said the state has encouraged hotels that don’t normally allow pets to waive that restriction, and many have complied.

Currently, about 8,000 customers in southeast Florida are without power.

”But of course, that number will be in the millions relatively shortly,” DeSantis said.

An eastward shift in the storm’s track has prompted a more optimistic forecast for Tampa Bay.

An 11 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center removed much of Tampa Bay from Hurricane Ian’s “cone of uncertainty.”

The center’s latest tracking placed Hurricane Ian about 110 miles southwest of Naples, moving north-northeast toward Florida at 10 miles per hour. It’s expected to turn more to the north on Thursday. Parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties remain in Ian’s expected path, but as the storm has shifted east, Pinellas and western Pasco counties are no longer in the cone.

Ian is still a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. The storm should pass the Florida Keys in the next couple of hours, and is on track to approach land near Fort Myers during the day Wednesday, turning north and crossing Central Florida that night and into Thursday.

All of Tampa Bay remains under a hurricane watch and storm surge watch of 4 to 6 feet, meaning conditions for both are expected. Central Florida is forecast to get 12 to 18 inches of rain, with some spots getting up to 24 inches.

You can track Ian’s path in Florida via the National Hurricane Center’s latest cones and satellite imagery here.

This page is being updated regularly as news develops. Scroll down for more time-stamped updates.

EVACUATION UPDATE: Hillsborough County on Tuesday morning extended its mandatory evacuation order to Zone B, which had been under a voluntary recommendation. The order affects 90,000 additional residents, said Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise. The evacuation began at noon and people are asked to be out of their homes by 9 p.m., Wise said.

EVACUATIONS:

  • Hillsborough County has ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A and Zone B.
  • Pinellas County issued a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A Monday. Evacuation orders for residents living in Zones B and C went into effect on Tuesday at 7 a.m. The orders follow a press conference on Monday morning during which officials warned “get out right now.
  • Pasco County announced evacuations in Zones A, B and C, which include everyone west of U.S. 19 and some neighborhoods to the east. Read more here.
  • MacDill Air Force Base issued an installation-wide mandatory evacuation to be completed by Tuesday at noon for non-mission essential individuals.

SHELTERS:

Find out more about shelters here, including information about pets and what to take with you.

Related: As Ian targets Tampa Bay, hospitals, nursing homes evacuate patients
Related: Tampa airport to close Tuesday as flights canceled for Hurricane Ian
Related: Tampa Bay Publix stores to close early Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Ian
Related: Tampa Electric may shut off power in two areas around downtown Tampa

11:30 p.m.

Parts of Tampa Bay are now out of the cone of uncertainty.

As Hurricane Ian shifts east, taking its track farther south along the Gulf Coast, National Weather Center forecasters have narrowed the cone of its projected path accordingly, nudging Pinellas and western Pasco counties outside the cone. Hillsborough and Polk counties, along with those farther south, remain in the cone.

The storm is expected to strike the Gulf Coast and cross Central Florida en route to the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.

10:50 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Rays eked out an extra-innings 6-4 road win over the Cleveland Guardians Tuesday night. But earlier in the day, their thoughts were back home in Florida as Hurricane Ian drew closer.

“A lot of thought, watching the news, watching the computer,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I know that the Tampa Bay area has been pretty fortunate over many, many years now. But just thinking about everybody there and hopefully that people have done right to prepare and that wherever it goes it doesn’t hit as hard as the speculation.”

Rays officials have already shut down their Port Charlotte complex, where they host spring training and stage year-round activities, and where Ian potentially was forecast to hit.

Due to impact of the storm, ticket sales of for Rays’ potential home Wild Card and Division Series playoff games, which were to start Friday, will be delayed until Oct. 5.

Read more here.

10:34 p.m.

As Tampa Bay residents finished their last-minute supply runs ahead of Hurricane Ian, emptying grocery store shelves, draining gas stations of fuel and hammering on newly boarded windows, some of the region’s streets turned quiet.

Dire forecasts had predicted a potential monster storm overwhelming the region with catastrophic flooding. But Tuesday afternoon — roughly a day before projected landfall — an eastward shift prompted some hope.

The shift prompted memories of 2004′s Hurricane Charley, which threatened to wipe Tampa Bay off the map before turning east.

“Hurricane Warnings have been extended into the Orlando area. This track really is looking like Charley 2.0,” tweeted Denis Phillips, a Tampa meteorologist with ABC Action News.

Read a full recap of Tuesday’s Hurricane Ian preparations across Tampa Bay and Florida here.

10:22 p.m.

Up and down southwest Florida’s coast, residents woke Tuesday to a jolt as they realized Hurricane Ian had shifted a bit south. As storm surge predictions nearly doubled for some of Florida’s southwest counties, residents struggled to finish buckling down homes and businesses for the blockbuster storm.

“I’d say I’m a little bit caught off-guard,” said Kenny Palin, owner of Solorzano’s Pizzeria in Sarasota and Longboat Key, who had to collect his own sand for sandbags from the beach sandbags.

From left to right: Chris Iovanna, 31, Justin Short, 35, and Nick Patel, 38, work to place shutters on their restaurant, the Soda Fountain of Venice, on Tuesday.
From left to right: Chris Iovanna, 31, Justin Short, 35, and Nick Patel, 38, work to place shutters on their restaurant, the Soda Fountain of Venice, on Tuesday. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]

The storm’s curveball path gave counties further south less time to prepare and evacuate for worsening conditions. Where evacuations began early Monday for Pinellas, Hillsborough and Charlotte counties, they did not begin in Sarasota County until early Tuesday.

“I do feel like this morning everybody woke up to a whole new thing,” said artist Kathy Groob, who lives in Lakewood Ranch and had to evacuate her studio space at St. Armands Circle in Sarasota County by noon Tuesday.

Read more here about how southwest Florida residents spent Tuesday making preparations for Ian.

9:45 p.m.

Two tornadoes were spotted in Broward County Tuesday night as Hurricane Ian approached the state as a Category 4 hurricane, the National Weather Service confirmed.

The Miami Herald reported that the first tornado was confirmed moving north of the county toward Cooper City just before 7:30 p.m. Nearly an hour later, another tornado was confirmed very close to the path of the first.

Read more here.

9:35 p.m.

In Gulfport, waterfront watering hole O’Maddy’s was packed until police shut the hurricane party down Tuesday afternoon. Workers and regulars weren’t happy.

“We got no notice. It was crazy. All of a sudden, I had to kick out all of these people,” owner Joe Guenther said while stacking chairs. “I have 85 employees who stayed here to serve through the storm. They depend on this. It’s beautiful out here today. I’m not putting anyone in danger.”

Storefronts are boarded up along Beach Drive in Gulfport in preparation for Hurricane Ian on Tuesday.
Storefronts are boarded up along Beach Drive in Gulfport in preparation for Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

The town of 12,000 people, which sits across from St. Pete Beach on Boca Ciega Bay, is artsy, quirky and laid-back. Residents pride themselves on celebrating differences.

Fran Miller, 71, of Kenneth City, walked along the waterfront with a friend from Buffalo, N.Y. The women had planned to spend the day at the beach, but since the Gulf beaches were closed for the hurricane, they went to Gulfport.

In the 30 years she’s lived in Pinellas County, Miller has never evacuated.

“What’s the point?” she asked. “That storm will chase you all the way across the state. Then you’ll run out of gas or get in an accident, for what? We went without power for five days after Irma. We can always charge our phones in the car.”

Read more from the scene in Gulfport here.

9:05 p.m.

Patrick Burns brought four cats to Pinellas County's pet-friendly shelter at Largo High School on Tuesday. The cats are named Scamp, Fritzy, Dennis and Scooter.
Patrick Burns brought four cats to Pinellas County's pet-friendly shelter at Largo High School on Tuesday. The cats are named Scamp, Fritzy, Dennis and Scooter. [ TRACEY MCMANUS | Times ]

At Largo High School, one of three pet-friendly emergency shelters in Pinellas County, animals are kept crated in the locker rooms.

The county had extra crates left over from Hurricane Irma in 2017 for people who forgot to bring one. Tuesday afternoon, Animal Services outcome coordinator Casey Hollingsworth said the shelter was housing two rabbits, two goldfish, 37 cats, 40 dogs and one chinchilla.

Animal Services has a system: More aggressive dogs are in crates in bathroom stalls while chill dogs are in crates in locker room aisle.

“This is a benefit of having your dog crate trained,” Hollingsworth said.

Read more stories from Tampa Bay’s emergency shelters here.

9:05 p.m.

The U.S. Postal Service has temporarily suspended all mail operations in Central and Southwest Florida, including all of Tampa Bay.

ZIP codes that begin with any of the following three numbers will see retail and mail services pause until it’s safe to do so: 328, 329, 335 through 339, 341, 342, 346 and 347. A map can be found here.

“The safety of our employees and our customers is a priority for the Postal Service,” the agency said in a news release.

8:57 p.m.

MacDill Air Force Base has cleared out and closed its gates.

Col. Adam Bingham, the wing commander for the 6th Air Refueling Wing, issued the evacuation order on Tuesday. The South Tampa base will remain closed until Hurricane Ian passes and Bingham gives the all-clear to return.

“We are in close coordination with local law enforcement to ensure the security of the base and assets contained within,” Lt. Col. Brian Rutt, commander of the 6th Security Forces Squadron, said in a statement. “We are available for immediate response and will resume normal operations following the passing of the storm.”

MacDill personnel are expected to stay in contact with their commanding officers, supervisors and families, Bingham said.

8:48 p.m.

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System west of St. Petersburg has completed the transfer of 142 residents to veterans’ care facilities around Florida, the medical center announced Tuesday night.

The patients were moved to VA care centers in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Gainesville, along with the appropriate clinical staff. Residents’ relatives were notified of the move.

“The prioritization of our Veterans doesn’t change just because there’s an imminent threat,” Kristine Brown, deputy director of Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, said in a statement. “When events like this occur, we all feel the stress and worry that come with uncertainty. Despite this, our staff put their personal concerns aside and worked nearly around the clock, with zero complaints, to make sure our Veterans were taken care of.”

8:40 p.m.

As Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida, Uber surge rates — which give drivers bonus cash for offering rides during times of high demand — are “way high,” according to driver Al Moreno, 59. They’ve been that way ever since residents were encouraged to flee Monday.

Uber driver Al Moreno, 59, ferried people around Tampa Bay as others evacuated due to the threat of Hurricane Ian.
Uber driver Al Moreno, 59, ferried people around Tampa Bay as others evacuated due to the threat of Hurricane Ian. [ HANNAH CRITCHFIELD | Tampa Bay Times ]

So as others evacuated on Tuesday, Moreno stayed, ferrying residents to their destinations as the infrastructure of their everyday lives breaks down. It wasn’t until 7 p.m. that wrapped up his drives and headed to New Port Richey to join his mother for the storm.

“I’m on the second floor, so I’d be fine,” he said. “But I realized I just can’t risk losing my car.”

Read more here.

8:30 p.m.

With six weeks to go until Election Day and mail ballots already on their way to overseas voters, a major hurricane threatening vulnerable regions in the Gulf Coast of Florida has all but halted politics-as-usual in the state.

Hurricane Ian’s approach tamed weeks of political tensions between President Joe Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis, caused campaigns to pull their commercials and derailed political events, including what would have been the president’s second visit to South Florida since his inauguration.

Where acrimony and finger-pointing once existed, the threat posed by Ian ushered in a forced detente.

“It’s about the people of Florida,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “It’s not about public officials, especially in this time.”

Read more here.

8:18 p.m.

There aren’t many tell-tale signs that something bad is coming quite like the Waffle House closing.

An employee at the Waffle House in Treasure Island posted a video on TikTok on Tuesday letting people know that even with Hurricane Ian barreling down on Florida, the griddles were still on.

“Hurricane Ian is coming, everyone is evacuating but you work for waffle house,” the employee wrote over the video.

@ooberina

We essential. 🌀 #fyp #fypシ #HurricaneIan #hurricane #stormchasers #TreasureIsland #Florida #essentialworker #WaffleHouse

♬ sonido original - Dani Valle

The initial post got over 42,000 likes by Tuesday night.

“Forget Jim Cantore, Waffle House really predicts the weather,” one user commented.

But only a few hours after the initial video was posted, the employee posted another. With Treasure Island being in Pinellas County’s evacuation Zone A, the location at 11185 Gulf Blvd closed at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The employee said the closure was a result of waste water being turned off as well as closing bridges back from the barrier island.

@ooberina

Hurricane wins this round! 🌀 #fyp #fypシ #HurricaneIan #hurricane #TreasureIsland #Florida #WaffleHouse #essentialworker

♬ original sound - OOBERina

7:54 p.m.

The USF Bulls, UCF Knights and Florida Gators have all changed this weekend’s home football games because of Hurricane Ian.

USF’s home ame against East Carolina has been moved to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton. Florida’s game against Eastern Washington is moving from Saturday to Sunday at noon. And UCF will now play SMU at 1 p.m. Sunday instead of Saturday.

Florida State, meanwhile, will still play Wake Forest at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Tallahassee.

Read more here.

7:42 p.m.

Your home was damaged by a hurricane. Windows blown out. An oak tree on the roof. Floodwater sloshed through the living room. Now what do you do?

First, experts tell the Tampa Bay Times, it’s important to remain calm and set realistic expectations for what comes next — a long and complicated process of cleaning up, hiring help and navigating insurance claims.

“You’re going to get through this, no matter how dire it appears,” said Bob Reynolds of Miami-based Morris & Reynolds Insurance, who lost his home and office building to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “And you’re not alone. Your whole community is going to be in the same boat including the need for supplies, repairs and insurance adjusters. It’s a demand surge, and it will take some patience.”

Here are some tips on what to do if your home gets hit by Hurricane Ian.

John Doyle, of New Port Richey, left, and Paul Bidetti, of Oldsmar, board up a house to prepare for Hurricane Ian near the 300 block of E Shore Drive in Oldsmar on Tuesday.
John Doyle, of New Port Richey, left, and Paul Bidetti, of Oldsmar, board up a house to prepare for Hurricane Ian near the 300 block of E Shore Drive in Oldsmar on Tuesday. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

7:25 p.m.

Hurricane Ian veering to the south may be bad news for southwest Florida. But means “everybody’s breathing a sigh of relief” in Tampa Bay, said Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

“It’s a really good thing for Tampa Bay, especially for storm surge,” McClure said Tuesday night. “That’s the biggest, No. 1 big positive, because all of a sudden, the storm surge threat goes way, way down.”

While the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service are officially projecting 4 to 7 feet of storm surge in Tampa Bay, McClure thinks it’ll be more like 3 feet or fewer.

“When you get on the north side of these storms like this, we’re actually going to have an offshore blowing wind,” he said. “So no, there will not be any storm surge even close to that magnitude.”

Tampa Bay will still see rain and high winds lashing in counterclockwise bands from the eye, but those gusts are more likely to be in the 60- or 70-miles-per-hour range. Southeastern Hillsborough and southwest Polk may get some stronger winds, “but not nearly as strong as we were forecasting just a couple of days ago,” he said.

Heavy rains are still a concern, though, as Tampa Bay isn’t expected to see much sunlight Wednesday and Thursday.

“There will be areas that have flooding just from heavy rain in our region,” McClure said.

7:21 p.m.

City of Tampa officials said Tuesday morning that they planned to enact a curfew as Hurricane Ian barreled toward Florida, but later in the day said a curfew may not be necessary.

Mayor Jane Castor’s spokesperson, Adam Smith, told the Tampa Bay Times that a curfew would not be enacted Tuesday night. Whether one will happen on Wednesday depends on the weather, Smith said.

During a news conference late Tuesday afternoon, Castor said, “Right now, with the trajectory, if we don’t have the damage that was predicted before ... then there won’t be a need to put a curfew in place.” She added that a curfew was still possible.

The city has provided almost 100,000 sandbags to residents, Castor announced.

6:28 p.m.

Tampa Electric Co. won’t be shutting power to sections of downtown Tampa after all.

The company had considered the proactive move as a method of helping avoid storm damage to their equipment and to restore power faster once Hurricane Ian moved on.

But by late afternoon, a company spokesperson said, based on the latest forecast, the threat of storm surge downtown had diminished and they didn’t plan to interrupt service after all.

“The situation is dynamic, and if conditions warrant, we will re-evaluate,” said spokesperson Cherie Jacobs.

Duke Energy was not planning to proactively shut off power Tuesday, “but will continue to assess with our meteorologist,” said spokesperson Ana Gibbs.

Read more here.

6:20 p.m.

Hurricane Ian is putting additional stress on many Latinos and other low-income families in Tampa Bay, who are struggling to afford the basics. For them, plywood or hurricane shutters are a luxury.

Hurricane shutters can cost up to $6,500, with a national average of $4,300. The price includes labor, which runs between $35 and $100 an hour, and materials that can range from $5 to $60 per square foot.

Sem Melo, 40, said hurricane season is a nightmare for families with only one household income.
"Our destiny often depends on how lucky we are,” he said.
Sem Melo, 40, said hurricane season is a nightmare for families with only one household income. "Our destiny often depends on how lucky we are,” he said. [ JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ | Times ]

“Our destiny often depends on how lucky we are,” said Riverview’s Sam Melo, 40, who works in a Japanese restaurant. “For us it is a different story because we cannot go to buy groceries. We don’t have credit cards to use during an emergency.”

Read more here.

6:14 p.m.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said he spoke to President Joe Biden on Tuesday, and was assured that the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency are prepared to send help to Tampa Bay.

“They assured me that the administration and FEMA are monitoring this storm around the clock, and are ready to support relief efforts in any way we deem necessary,” Welch said of his call with the White House. “I relayed to them my gratitude and reminded them of the strength and resilience of St. Petersburg’s community and assured them we have some of the finest employees and first responders in the nation, and they are ready to work alongside federal, regional, state and other partners after the storm.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks at a press conference as Florida awaits Hurricane Ian’s arrival at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Monday in Largo.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks at a press conference as Florida awaits Hurricane Ian’s arrival at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Monday in Largo. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Welch said the city’s emergency operations are in “pretty good shape,” but that everyone was staying vigilant.

“This is not the time to let down our guard,” he said. “Do not focus on the center tread. This still is a huge storm that can still bring damaging weather to our city.”

Read more here.

5:51 p.m.

People can now drive their cars along the shoulder on I-4 in Hillsborough and Polk counties, according to a tweet from the Florida Highway Patrol.

The decision comes as mandatory evacuations continue across the Tampa Bay region.

5:30 p.m.

The last commercial flight has left Tampa International Airport, per a press release from the airport.

The flight was Delta 2790, heading to Atlanta. It was scheduled to take off shortly after 5 p.m.

Passengers walk to their terminal to board a plane at the Tampa International Airport on Tuesday in Tampa.
Passengers walk to their terminal to board a plane at the Tampa International Airport on Tuesday in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

5:27 p.m.

Several more hospitals and free-standing emergency departments located in mandatory evacuation zones closed and evacuated patients Tuesday.

BayCare announced it evacuated and closed Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey.

HCA Florida Lake Tarpon Emergency closed at noon today and HCA Florida Clearwater Emergency is scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

The emergency department at Bayfront Health St. Peterburg Pinellas Park is also closed.

All elective surgeries at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg facilities are canceled for Wednesday and Thursday. The facility has activated its Hospital Emergency Response Team in preparation for Hurricane Ian.

Hospital officials are warning expectant moms close to their due date not to go to the Baby Place at Bayfront Health, St. Petersburg unless it is a medical emergency.

Expectant moms who are in labor or other medical distress when the storm is passing should call 911.

A flood barrier surrounds Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday in preparation for Hurricane Ian's arrival.
A flood barrier surrounds Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday in preparation for Hurricane Ian's arrival. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

5:15 p.m.

The Florida Department of Corrections announced Tuesday afternoon that visitation would be canceled at all prisons, work camps, work release centers and annexes throughout the state.

The cancelation is effective through October 2. Updates on visitation are provided through text to anyone that sends “FDCVISIT” to 888-777.

5:13 p.m.

The National Weather Service’s 5 p.m. update on Ian is in, and it once again pushes the hurricane’s track a little farther south of Tampa Bay, potentially reaching the shore as a Category 4 hurricane near Venice.

The hurricane is about 2:30 miles south of Sarasota, inching north at 10 miles per hour. The state’s hurricane warning has been extended south to Chokoloskee, just south of Marco Island.

Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties remain under a hurricane warning, with a storm surge of 4 to 6 feet from the Anclote River to Longboat Key, including Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is expected to get 12 to 18 inches of rain through Thursday night, with isolated pockets of up to 24 inches.

From left: Kenny King, a handyman in Safety Harbor, and Jon Walker, the co-owner of Tides Seafood Market & Provisions, move plywood ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival on Tuesday in Safety Harbor.
From left: Kenny King, a handyman in Safety Harbor, and Jon Walker, the co-owner of Tides Seafood Market & Provisions, move plywood ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival on Tuesday in Safety Harbor. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

4:56 p.m.

As Hurricane Ian approaches Florida’s west coast, Walt Disney World Resort announced in a tweet Tuesday that it will close theme parks and water parks through Thursday, Sept. 29.

“We are monitoring weather conditions so we can make timely decisions for the safety of our cast and guests, including when it’s safe for cast to return to the site to prepare for reopening,” the post stated.

Read more on Disney and Busch Gardens’ closing here.

4:51 p.m.

In St. Petersburg, Childs Park resident Ardene Alleyne said she wasn’t too concerned about flooding or wind damage — but she still intended to board up every window of her home with thick, plexiglass shutters for protection.

”I’m not worried and we’re not in an evac zone,” Alleyne said. “Still, we have to be prepared.”

Though a power outage is to be expected, Alleyne said she’s ready to wait it out with plenty of non-perishable foods and water.

”I’ve lived here for 19 years,” Alleyne, 61, said. “The worst I’ve seen are some trees blown over and my neighbor’s fence down.”

Vehicles back up, creating a long line at the corner of 58th Street N heading toward 22nd Avenue N at the sandbag distribution North West Park on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
Vehicles back up, creating a long line at the corner of 58th Street N heading toward 22nd Avenue N at the sandbag distribution North West Park on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

4:50 p.m.

On Tuesday afternoon, Amie Miller, 43, and her daughter, Lillie, secured the final touches to their Gulfport home before evacuating to higher ground in central St. Petersburg. The window out front with a hairline fracture was covered up. The books were in zipper-lock bags. The family heirlooms, artwork and and everything else they could fit: Stuffed into four tote bags. But there was only so much they could bring.

“We just packed up what’s most precious,” Miller said.

Tuesday marked the second time in six years the family has evacuated — the first was for Hurricane Irma, in 2017. Their house, which sits just three blocks off the bay, would likely flood. The question was just how much.

”We get flooding even if it just rains really hard,” Miller said. “Usually we do stay, but we’re afraid — what if we get stuck and can’t leave?”

Miller and her husband grew up in North and South Carolina. Hurricanes — and evacuations — are nothing new. But this storm’s path was too unpredictable, Miller said.

”Just not knowing what’s going to happen,” Miller said. “It’s never easy, leaving our home. It’s hard to walk away from a place where you live and have memories.”

4:38 p.m.

Hillsborough County is asking residents to limit water use during potential power outages. It’s to avoid drops in water pressure that can cause potential contamination and trigger boil-water notices.

4:30 p.m.

Walmart stores in southwest and central Florida are beginning to close, according to the retailer’s online store status tracker. At least 39 stores between Naples and Tampa, including some as far east as Orlando and Avon Park, are currently closed, including four in Hillsborough County. Others will soon join them — including the store at 201 34th St. N in St. Petersburg, which will close at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to an overhead announcement just made at the store.

A Walmart spokesperson shared the following company statement: “We’ve been closely watching Ian’s track for the past several days to make sure our stores are prepared to safely serve communities. As we continue assessing the path and probable impact zones, we’re temporarily closing stores for the safety of our associates and customers. …”

Regarding the loss of power and reopening after the storm’s passing, we’re actively taking steps to give us the best opportunity to resume operations once it’s safe to do so.”

4:23 p.m.

Rep. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that he hadn’t heard back from Gov. Ron DeSantis, his opponent in November’s gubernatorial election, about his request for the state to give emergency 90-day coverage for homeowners who were dropped by their insurance companies.

When asked about DeSantis’ job performance thus far during the buildup to Ian, Crist demurred, saying he didn’t think it was the time for “Monday morning quarterbacking before Monday.”

“I think that what we all need to do is be focused on protecting our fellow Floridians, I think that’s the appropriate posture for right now,” he said.

Read more here.

4:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service’s 4 p.m. update on Ian placed the hurricane about 200 miles south of Sarasota, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. It’s moving north at about 10 miles per hour.

3:30 p.m.

City of Tampa parking garages will be free for residents to park in through Friday, Sept. 30, according to a tweet from the city’s account.

Risk is assumed by vehicle owners, the account stated.

3:27 p.m.

Pasco County will continue distributing sandbags to residents up until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, or until supplies run out, according to a tweet from the county account.

Residents in need of sand are being told they need to bring their own bags and shovel.

City employees load sandbags into people’s cars as they pull up to a station at Northwest Park, in preparation for Hurricane Ian, Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
City employees load sandbags into people’s cars as they pull up to a station at Northwest Park, in preparation for Hurricane Ian, Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

3:05 p.m.

GoPasco will stop service at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

More information can be found here.

2:30 p.m.

Publix stores in 11 Florida counties, including those in the Tampa Bay region, will close early Tuesday.

The grocery store chain announced regional stores will shutter doors by 6 p.m. in preparation for Hurricane Ian.

The stores are expected to reopen on Friday, according to the announcement.

Debbie Ballantyne, 57, loads groceries including bottled water and wine in preparation for Hurricane Ian she picked up at Publix in Plant City on Tuesday.
Debbie Ballantyne, 57, loads groceries including bottled water and wine in preparation for Hurricane Ian she picked up at Publix in Plant City on Tuesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

2:15 p.m.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will suspend all fixed route service beginning at 7 p.m. tonight, according to agency spokesperson Stephanie Rank.

The agency will continue helping with evacuations until winds reach a sustained speed of 40 miles per hour.

2:00 p.m.

A hurricane warning and storm surge warning remain in effect for Tampa Bay according to a 2:00 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, with hurricane conditions expected along the west coast of Florida beginning Wednesday morning. Tropical storm conditions could begin later this evening.

The hurricane currently is moving away from the west coast of Cuba and is gaining strength in the southeast Gulf of Mexico. Right now, the storm sits about 265 miles from Sarasota, as it heads west.

According to the release, “the center of Ian is expected to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico today, pass west of the Florida Keys later tonight, and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday and Wednesday night.”

1:53 p.m.

Shelter use was sparse at East Tampa’s Lockhart Elementary, one of more than 40 Hillsborough schools that began accepting residents on Monday afternoon.

The early arrivals included Damon Porter, a lawn care laborer, and Brittany Cline, who is out of work on disability.

Porter said he came to the shelter with his sister and his 73-year-old mother from a manufactured home that might not withstand the hurricane winds and train.

Damon Porter and Brittany Cline.
Damon Porter and Brittany Cline. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]

”I’m all right,” Porter said. “I’m here mostly for my mother and my sister’s well-being, not to take a chance.”

Cline came to Tampa recently from California to be with her daughter. But the two had a falling out, she said.

“I just want her to be safe,” Cline said.

Lockhart principal Natalie Corsanico said she expected more inhabitants as the storm gets closer. They will include Corsanico’s husband and baby daughter, who will shelter with her when the storm hits.

”This place is a fortress,” she said. Corsanico, the school’s principal since 2021, said she is fortunate to be getting assistance from two other East Tampa principals: Sharon Waite of Potter Elementary and Emily Tirelli of DeSoto Elementary.

From left: Hillsborough County principals Sharon Waite, Natalie Corsanico and Emily Tirelli pose for a photo.
From left: Hillsborough County principals Sharon Waite, Natalie Corsanico and Emily Tirelli pose for a photo. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]

More than 15 other school employees have come to volunteer, she said. And she spoke highly of the work being done by city employees.

Despite the stress that everyone is feeling, Corsanico said, “I know what I need to do during a hurricane. I know where my place is, so it’s comforting.”

1:23 p.m.

President Joe Biden made phone calls to Tampa Bay mayors on Tuesday to discuss storm preparedness and planning.

Over the weekend, Biden approved a federal emergency declaration in the hope of ensuring resources will make it to the Tampa Bay region as quickly as possible.

1:12 p.m.

Moffitt Cancer Center has canceled all in-person appointments for Wednesday and Thursday, officials said.

Moffitt staffers will contact patients to reschedule appointments. Telehealth appointments will continue throughout the storm.

Patients are encouraged to monitor Moffitt.org/hurricane, the patient portal, the patient hotline at 813-745-3500 and Moffitt’s social media platforms for the latest.

1:11 p.m.

AdventhHealth North Pinellas hospital in Tarpon Springs is being evacuated, the hospital chain announced Tuesday.

Patients and clinical staff will be transported to sister hospitals throughout the Tampa Bay area and patient’s families will be notified of their new location.

The hospital is located in a mandatory Evacuation Zone in Pinellas County. All elective procedures, including surgeries, imaging, rehab, endoscopies, and other procedures have been canceled. Patients will be notified once services resume.

1:05 p.m.

By Tuesday morning, Pasco County’s Department of Emergency Management said it had already distributed more than 260,000 sandbags -a record high for the county – as residents across the region rush to fortify their homes against Hurricane Ian.

The demand for sandbags has been so high, Emergency Management Director Andrew Fossa said, that the county actually ran out briefly before Hillsborough County provided 125,000 more.

Sandbag sites will remain open until supplies run out, Fossa said. Those locations can be found online at mypasco.net along with information on evacuation zones and shelter locations.

The county’s customer service line will also be manned 24 hours a day throughout the storm at (727) 847-2411. Ten shelter sites are also in operation, five of which are pet friendly. Those locations can be found online at mypasco.net along with information on evacuation zones and shelter locations.

“Even in the height of the storm, the county will never turn anyone away from a shelter,” Fossa said.

Elderly residents and those without transportation can call the county’s hotline number for a free ride to a nearby shelter location.

Fossa, County Administrator Mike Carballa and other officials made another plea to those living in evacuation zones A, B and C to heed their warnings to relocate. Evacuation orders for Zone A are mandatory.

”I still see a lot of complacency out there,” Carballa said. “I pray that it changes course and that it doesn’t affect us but we have to plan as if it will. And if you think that 14 to 17 feet of water doesn’t translate into something significant, that’s a mistake.”

The latest projections from the National Weather Service showed Ian tracking to the south of Pasco but meteorologists still expect a significant storm surge and at least 20 inches of rain over the next 60 hours.

Multiple rivers throughout Pasco are already in “action stage” with waters surging over their banks and residents should do what they can to stay off the roads by Wednesday morning as Ian’s outer bands begin to whip through the county, Fossa said.

By mid-afternoon, the hurricane is projected to send tropical-storm force winds at a sustained speed of 39 miles per hour throughout Pasco County, and those winds will only intensify throughout the evening, according to Fossa.

Search and rescue teams, the county’s swiftwater response team and “chainsaw teams” tasked with clearing roadways are all “ready to roll,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said, but even first responders have their limitations.

Once wind speeds hit 50 miles per hour, first responders will be forced to shut down operations for their own safety, Fire Rescue Chief Scott Cassin said.

Residents should remember that some fire stations, particularly on the west side of the county, are located in evacuation zones too. That means delayed response time to 911 calls should be expected.

Nocco also stressed that evacuees should tell their loved ones where they are going or post their location to social media.

After the storm passes, when the power goes out and cell phone signals are lost, 911 centers will be flooded with phone calls from those looking for loved ones, he said.

”Please don’t put law enforcement officers or fire rescue into a bad situation, trying to look for people who are already safe,” Nocco said. “You’re not alone,” he said.

“We’re all in this together, so please recognize that and be kind and be patient. Anger isn’t going to change the situation we’re in, all it’s going to do is make it worse.”

12:33 p.m.

The city of Tampa has reached capacity for sandbag distribution, and will not provide sandbags to people who weren’t in line as of 12:16 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a tweet from its official account.

The city has provided more than 50,000 sandbags to residents, so far, officials said.

12:20 p.m.

The city of Tampa plans to enact a curfew as Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida, city leaders announced during a news conference Tuesday morning.

Details were not immediately available, but Mayor Jane Castor told reporters that the city attorney had begun crafting language for the ordinance, during the press huddle at the city’s emergency operations center.

Officials noted the curfew would likely take effect this evening.

Castor continued to warn residents to evacuate.

“Get away from the water,” she said, noting that if the storm slows down when it reaches Tampa Bay, the rainfall could be devastating.

Castor briefly stepped away from the news conference, saying she thought President Joe Biden was calling her. She later confirmed it was Biden.

”He just wanted to ensure that we had all the resources that we needed and clearly wishing us the best.” Castor said. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was with him, she said.

Public safety officials noted that first responders will not be dispatched to calls for help when wind speeds are sustained at 40 mph or higher.

12:03 p.m.

BayCare announced this morning it began evacuating Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey late Monday as it’s in a mandatory evacuation zone. The emergency department at the hospital is now closed.

The nonprofit, which runs 15 hospitals in the Tampa Bay Region, plans to continue elective surgeries scheduled for today that do not require an overnight stay. Surgeries scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday are canceled. A decision about resuming surgeries on Friday will be made later this week.

Rehab and wound care services will also be suspended after today. Patients with BayCare Medical Group appointments for Wednesday and Thursday will be contacted to reschedule. Other BayCare services including urgent care, outpatient imaging, ambulatory surgery centers, laboratory patient collection center, healthhubs and behavioral health for outpatients will close at the end of business today.

BayCare Anywhere, BayCare’s telehealth service, will be available throughout the storm. AdventHealth is suspending elective surgeries in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties on Wednesday and Thursday. Patients can check AHMGTampabay.com and the AdventHealth Medical Group Facebook page for further updates. The hospital chain is also closing its Medical Group clinics and Care Pavilions in Hillbsorough, Pasco, Pinellas and Marion counties on Wednesday and Thursday

11:58 a.m.

On Tuesday morning Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people to take Ian seriously, noting that over 2 million people are under some type of evacuation order.

Lionel Armenta, 68, of Citrus Park, helps pack his family's car as they prepare to evacuate to Fort Lauderdale near the 300 block of Woodward Avenue on Tuesday in Oldsmar.
Lionel Armenta, 68, of Citrus Park, helps pack his family's car as they prepare to evacuate to Fort Lauderdale near the 300 block of Woodward Avenue on Tuesday in Oldsmar. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

11:52 a.m.

Most Publix stores are closing early at 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Lakeland-based grocer’s storm status page. Some stores closer to the coast like the one at St. Pete Beach’s Dolphin Village Shopping Center will close even earlier at 3 p.m. As of Tuesday, most Publix stores plan to reopen 7 a.m. on Friday. Shoppers can check the open status of their local stores online.

Publix in Plant City is seen on Tuesday.
Publix in Plant City is seen on Tuesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

10:55 a.m.

The Hillsborough Transit Authority (HART) will operate regular weekday service free of charge Tuesday. Service will operate in zones with mandatory evacuations until 9 p.m. The TECO Line Streetcar is not operating today. Hillsborough County will pick-up evacuees from HART transit and transfer centers and transport them to the closest open shelter until 7 p.m..

10:23 a.m.

Tampa Electric Co. is telling customers to be ready for extended outages. The utility has called in thousands of line workers from as far away as Texas and Indiana, said spokesperson Cherie Jacobs.

Tampa Electric also is executing a targeted interruption affecting the western edge of downtown Tampa in the vicinity of the Straz Center, she said. The interruption allows the utility to shut down equipment there “to help speed restoration after the storm,” Jacobs said.

The utility also is considering a targeted interruption for the southern tip of downtown Tampa, including Harbour Island and Davis Island but excluding Tampa General Hospital. It would affect two hotels, she said. The potential shutdown, which could come Wednesday, is intended to protect equipment that might be at risk of a storm surge, she said.

9:45 a.m.

“If you’re in the Tampa Bay area in a part that could potentially be impacted by storm surge, the time to buy things is gone,” said Dennis J. Smith, of Florida’s State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Read more here.

Publix plans to stay open until dangerous conditions arrive. Shoppers can check the open status of their local stores online.

Evacuation orders began to roll out Monday and more went into effect Tuesday morning.

9:10 a.m.

Just after 9 a.m., Hillsborough officials warned that sandbag sites were at capacity and said not to drive to a site if you haven’t already been in line.

8:55 a.m.

Authorities were issuing reminders on Tuesday that as of 7 a.m., access to Pinellas County’s barrier islands is restricted to residents and others who have “legitimate business” there.

8:50 a.m.

Busch Gardens announced plans to close Tuesday through Thursday in preparation for Hurricane Ian.

8:30 a.m.

Saint Leo University cancelled classes Wednesday through Friday. All locations with the exception of those in Corpus Christi, Texas and Columbus, Miss., will not have classes. The cancellation includes all Florida locations as well as those in Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

8:20 a.m.

The Coast Guard has set the port condition of Port Tampa Bay to ZULU, indicating the possibility of gale force winds (34-47 knots) entering the Bay in the next 12 hours.

8:00 a.m.

Tampa International Airport officials urged those boarding some of the final flights out of Tampa to build in plenty of time as they travel. Airport officials expect a high volume of travelers Tuesday before the airport closes at 5 p.m. Read more here.

7:30 a.m.

Tampa Bay residents who need sandbags were running out of time Tuesday. Hillsborough County announced Monday evening that its three sandbag locations would close at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. In St. Petersburg, police on Tuesday morning urged residents lining up for sandbags at the Northwest Pool, 2331 60th St. N, to be patient and not skip ahead. Read more about where to find sandbags here.

DISASTER RELIEF:

The Pinellas Community Foundation has readied the Tampa Bay Resiliency Fund to rapidly distribute financial support to nonprofit organizations that render disaster relief. It was created in 2020 in response to COVID-19.

Duggan Cooley, chief executive officer of the foundation, said the organization has partnered with Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, and United Way Suncoast to pool resources and disperse funds in response to Hurricane Ian.

Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) https://pinellascf.org or call 727-531-0058

United Way Suncoast https://unitedwaysuncoast.org or call 813-274-0900

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg https://healthystpete.foundation or call 727-865-4650

Allegany Franciscan Ministries https://afmfl.org or call 727-507-9668

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don't understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.

Times staff writers Marlene Sokol, Anastasia Dawson, Chris O’Donnell, Sam Ogozalek, Tony Marrero, Olivia George, Lawrence Mower and Bernadette Berdychowski contributed to this report.

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