While speaking to CNN last night, NHC director Jamie Rhome pointed to the current track of Ian as the main point of concern. As of now, the storm is expected to slow down and put all of Tampa Bay on its right side before making landfall, adding worries of increased storm surge to the region.
“This would be the storm of a lifetime for many Tampa Bay residents,” said Rhome, saying that if the storm intensifies, the surge could be devastating to the area. "This is a near worst case approach angle coming in from the south and west and stalling,” added Rhome. “With it slowing down, this would be a near worst case approach angle.”
According to Tuesday's 8 a.m. update from the NHC, Ian is currently just off the coast of Cuba, moving at about 12 mph, with 125 mph sustained winds. The storm is expected to pass west of the Florida Keys later today, and strengthen to a possible Category 4 as it approaches the west coast of Florida on Wednesday into Thursday.
Regardless of its track, Ian is expected to make landfall in Florida as a major hurricane, meaning above Category 3.
9/27 8am ET UPDATE: There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge along the Florida west coast where a storm surge warning has been issued, w/ the highest risk from Fort Myers to the Tampa Bay region. Listen to local officials and check https://t.co/0BMJEA5Wz0 for updates! pic.twitter.com/CGg1HV9MWm— NHC Storm Surge (@NHC_Surge) September 27, 2022
The NHC has placed Tampa Bay under a hurricane and storm surge warning. Forecasters are now warning of life-threatening storm surge in the Tampa Bay area with models showing between 5 to 10 feet, and excessive rain of up to 15 inches in some areas.
As of this morning, Hillsborough County has ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A and is recommending a voluntary evacuation for Zone B. Across the Bay, Pinellas has issued a mandatory evacuation for zones A, B, and C.
Both counties have multiple sandbag pickup sites, and shelters available.