Tampa Bay Storm Surge Forecast Reduced as Hurricane Ian Nears Florida

hurricane ian
Hurricane Ian moves north towards Florida's west coast, Sept. 27 (NOAA)

Published Sep 27, 2022 10:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Florida's Gulf coast continues to make ready for the arrival of Hurrcane Ian, which has passed over Cuba and is moving north over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Despite some uncertainty about Ian's track and intensity, "avoiding a large and destructive hurricane for Florida seems very unlikely," the National Hurricane Center warned in a Tuesday night forecast.

Model predictions for the location of landfall have shifted south, reducing (but not eliminating) the odds that Tampa Bay will be directly in the storm's crosshairs. Ian is currently expected to hit shore as a Category 3 or low Category 4 hurricane between Fort Myers and Sarasota, with severe winds extending up to forty miles from the eye.  Though a devastating 5-10 foot storm surge in Tampa Bay appears less likely than in earlier forecasts, a surge of 4-6 feet is still expected in the area, plus heavy flooding rains of 4-8 inches. Tampa's low-lying areas are under an evacuation order which affects about 300,000 residents, and the port has been closed in advance of the storm's arrival. 

Concern now turns to Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte on narrow Charlotte Harbor. The waterfront is built up with artificial canals, waterfront condos and low-lying houses, and the region could see a storm surge of up to 12 feet under current forecasts. Virtually all of Punta Gorda and a large share of Port Charlotte are under an evacuation order.

At Naval Station Mayport, on the opposite side of the state, warships are queueing up to sortie and air wings are preparing to evacuate or to store their aircraft in secure hangars. The storm will lose strength over land as it moves north across Florida, but its track is expected to pass by the coast of Mayport, and it will still be packing winds of up to 45 mph. IN addition, Ian's emergence over the Atlantic as a tropical storm could cause coastal flooding in Northeastern Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.