After a night of intensification, Hurricane Ian emerged as a major hurricane Tuesday — now on a track further east and south of Tampa Bay.
Ian is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida as an extremely dangerous hurricane, forecasters said in an 11 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. The latest track shows a possible landfall on the southwestern coast of Florida, and some parts of Tampa Bay no longer are shown in the current cone.
The Category 3 storm is about 175 miles southwest of Naples as of 11 p.m. Ian has maximum sustained winds near 120 mph, with stronger gusts, and is moving north-northeast at about 10 mph.
During the 11 p.m. update, forecasters said the Category 3 storm is likely to continue traveling north-northeast, slowing down while growing stronger Tuesday night and into Wednesday. Ian’s predicted path has it passing west of the Florida Keys in the next few hours, then approaching the west coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area throughout Wednesday. The storm’s center is expected to move over central Florida Wednesday night and into Thursday morning before entering the western Atlantic late Thursday.
Hurricane-force winds extend from Ian’s center by up to 40 miles, and tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 140 miles, the hurricane center said.
Ian is expected to develop into a Category 4 storm before it reaches Florida’s west coast, according to the 11 p.m. update. Forecasters believe the system, which has turned to the right a bit, will get stronger and vertically deeper.
“Since radar imagery indicates that an eyewall replacement is probably underway, this could result in a larger eye evolving overnight,” the 11 p.m. update said.
Forecasters have extended watches and warnings to the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula, including an extension of a hurricane warning that now covers the area from Chokoloskee to the Anclote River
Forecasters are warning of life-threatening storm surge along the west coast of Florida. The area from Naples to Sarasota is most at risk, the hurricane center said in its 11 p.m. update.
The hurricane center has continued to stress that Ian’s track is uncertain, and the Tampa Bay region remains vulnerable to devastating levels of storm surge.
Tampa Bay still could be hit with a storm surge between 4 and 6 feet, according to a graphic from the Hurricane Center. The projection has lowered the region’s high estimate of surge by 4 feet since Ian’s forecasted path has shifted. Just south of Tampa Bay, however, could see an extreme surge of up to 12 feet.
Heavy rain from Ian will start across the Florida Keys and South Florida Tuesday, spreading into central to northern Florida by nightfall and into Wednesday, likely causing flash, urban and small stream flooding. Central and northeast Florida is expected to get between 12 to 18 inches, and some areas may see as much as 24 inches of rain.
Forecasters are expecting hurricane-force winds in the hurricane warning area in southwest and west-central Florida starting Wednesday morning, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin by Tuesday night.
The Hurricane Center has placed Tampa Bay under hurricane and storm surge warnings. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Similarly, a storm surge warning means dangerous levels of rising water from the coastline are expected.
Across Tampa Bay, local leaders pleaded with residents to prepare. Ian has the potential to be a historic catastrophe, one meteorologist told the Times on Monday.
Hillsborough County ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zones A and B. Pinellas County issued a mandatory evacuation for Zone A Monday evening, and Zones B and C had the same order go into effect Tuesday at 7 a.m. Pasco County announced evacuation for Zones A, B and C, which is everyone west of U.S. 19 and some neighborhoods to the east.
HOME PREPARATION: How to prepare your home for a hurricane
Other watches and warnings from the Hurricane Center Tuesday include:
A hurricane warning is in effect for the west coast of Florida, spanning the area from Chokoloskee to the Anclote River. That includes the Tampa Bay area. The Dry Tortugas also is under a hurricane warning.
A storm surge warning is in effect for Tampa Bay; the Dry Tortugas; the area from the Suwannee River south to Flamingo; the area around the St. Johns River; and from the Flagler/Volusia county line to the mouth of the St. Mary’s River.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque and Matanzas; all of the Florida Keys; Florida Bay; Flamingo to South Santee River; Flamingo to Chokoloskee; Lake Okeechobee; and the Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands.
A storm surge watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge west to Key West; Florida Bay and from the mouth of St. Mary’s River to South Santee River.
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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
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