Ian Strengthens Into Hurricane, Expected to Hit Category 4 Status by Tomorrow

On Florida’s West Coast, the storm could make landfall from the Panhandle to south of Tampa.

September 26, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Ian was declared a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center early Monday morning and was last reported as having maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and as it moved northwest at 14 mph.

In response, a hurricane watch has been issued for the west coast of Florida, including Tampa, Fort Myers and Naples. A storm surge watch is also in place for the Florida Keys. A hurricane warning is in effect for Cuba and the Cayman Islands as it passes over these areas early Tuesday morning.

Ian is expected to intensify to a major Category 3 hurricane by tonight with winds of 115 mph. After it passes Cuba, it’s expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm as it moves across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“On the forecast track, the center of Ian is expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands today, and near or over western Cuba tonight and early Tuesday. Ian will then emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, and pass west of the Florida Keys late Tuesday, and approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday,” according to NHC forecasters.

The latest track shows Ian losing strength and making landfall north of Tampa Bay early Friday as a Category 1 storm with maximum-sustained winds of 90 mph. However, forecast models are showing a wide range of possibility of where Ian could come ashore. Some show the storm making landfall south of Tampa, while others say it will hit in the Panhandle of the state.

“It should again be stressed that there is still significant uncertainty in the track of Ian, especially in the 3-5 day time frame, and users should not focus on the details of the track forecast at longer time ranges,” said NHC forecasters.

Officials in the Tampa Bay area announced school closures beginning Monday and extending through Thursday at the earliest, reports the Washington Post.

No matter where the storm hits on Florida’s West Coast, the entire state will be impacted by the hurricane.

“Regardless of Ian’s exact track and intensity, there is a risk of dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall along the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle by the middle of this week, and residents in Florida should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place,” the hurricane center warned.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida on Saturday.

“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane, and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track potential impacts of this storm.”

At a press briefing yesterday, DeSantis said there will be “broad impacts throughout the state” even if Floridians are not in the direct path of the storm.

The Florida National Guard has activated 2,500 troops, DeSantis said, adding: “If there’s a need for more, then we can do more.” He warned on Sunday for residents of the state to “expect heavy rains, strong winds, flash flooding, storm surge and even isolated tornadoes.”

Here’s information specific to fuel haulers from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT):

On, September 24, FDOT waived weight and size requirements for any vehicles transporting fuel, emergency equipment, services, supplies, and agricultural commodities and citrus.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has issued Emergency Order 092422, which waives specific requirements for commercial motor vehicles providing emergency relief.

President Joe Biden also declared a state of emergency for Florida, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted 14 to 21 named storms this hurricane season, and three to six of those storms were expected to be major hurricanes (category three or higher). Nine storms have been named so far, and three of those were hurricanes—Danielle, Earl and Fiona. Six of the nine named storms were formed in September after a record August when no named storms formed.

“Early preparation and understanding your risk are key to being hurricane-resilient and climate-ready,” said Gina Raimondo, secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA.

NACS has resources that can help convenience retailers create or enhance their disaster planning procedures. Developed alongside the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA experts, convenience retailers can boost their business’s resiliency as they plan, prepare and recover from a disaster.

Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Obama Administration, headlined a NACS webinar on how to plan and prepare for emergencies and how to use the NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aids. The resource is designed to help convenience retailers quickly and efficiently determine the best course of action for their teams to plan for an emergency and resume operations quickly and safely.

For more emergency planning resources, NACS Magazine articles and Convenience Matters podcast episodes, check out NACS’ Disaster and Emergency Preparedness topics page.