Tampa Bay residents still got a taste of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in the form of felled trees blocking some roadways, inoperable traffic signals and, in some areas, even flood water. City and county officials urged residents to use caution on the roads and to stay home if they didn’t have essential things to do.
Officials all day urged motorists to follow basic tips. Treat an inoperable traffic signal like a four-way stop, avoid flooded roads and watch for fallen objects and downed electrical wires.
The damage itself, however, could have been much worse.
The Florida Turnpike was closed much of Thursday in both directions from mile markers 254 through 267 in Orange County due to significant flooding. It’s not clear when the northbound and southbound lanes in this area will reopen.
Many motorists who evacuated were expected to return to their homes in the Tampa Bay region via I-4. There was no standing water on the interstate itself, but there were reports of flooding on some on and off ramps, according to Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Michael Williams.
As of late Thursday afternoon, there were two major reported incidents on the highway:
- On I-4 West, flooding in Volusia County had closed the ramp before Orange Camp Road.
- On I-4 East, the ramp to the Florida Turnpike was closed in Orange County.
There were also six minor reported incidents on the highway:
- On I-4 East, the off-ramp right lane was blocked in Orange County to State Road 528.
- On I-4 East, flooding in Osceola County closed the off-ramp to State Road 536.
- On I-4 East, flooding in Osceola County closed the on-ramp at Osceola Parkway.
- On I-4 West, heavy traffic was reported in Hillsborough County from beyond Park road to beyond McIntosh Road.
- On I-4 West, the on-ramp from U.S. 192 in Osceola County was closed.
- On I-4 West, the off-ramp to Florida’s Turnpike in Orange County was closed.
The City of Tampa reported 206 wires down, 143 trees or limbs down, 139 traffic lights out and 59 “street obstructions,” Thursday morning.
Along St. Petersburg’s main east-west arteries, traffic lights had gone out at key intersections as of 10 a.m.: 1st Avenue North and 8th Street; 1st Avenue North and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street; 1st Avenue North and South at 16th Street near Tropicana Field, 1st Avenue North and South near 20th street; 1st Avenue North and South at 31st Street.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in both directions Wednesday morning after winds in the area associated with Hurricane Ian were clocked between 50 and 60 mph. The bridge reopened to traffic on Thursday afternoon after dangerous winds calmed.
“Motorists may cross the span, but are asked to use caution due to debris along the highway shoulders,” the Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release.
The three bridges connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties — the Howard Frankland, the Gandy and the Courtney Campbell Causeway — were monitored by the Florida Department of Transportation and law enforcement throughout the storm and remained open.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane coverage
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.