The following is an announcement concerning Hurricane Ian from the Hillsborough County Public Schools, which includes Tampa, Florida:
Our district has been working closely with the county’s emergency operations center in preparation of Hurricane Ian’s impact on our region. County emergency officials have made the decision to activate many of our schools starting Monday as storm shelters to house community members who will be required to evacuate their homes.
Because of this decision, the district has no choice but to close schools and suspend all after-school programs and extra-curricular activities beginning tomorrow, Monday, September 26, through Thursday, September 29.
#Ian is expected to be a major hurricane in the eastern Gulf of
Mexico during the middle of this week. Regardless of Ian’s exact track, there is a risk of a life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, & heavy rainfall along the west coast/Panhandle of Florida by mid-week pic.twitter.com/koVmW9yrtJ
— National Weather Service (@NWS) September 26, 2022
As of this afternoon, forecasters were expecting the storm to track just off the gulf coast of western Florida, but it could still dump between 15 and 20 inches of rain and create a storm surge of several feet in areas near Tampa, including Clearwater and St Petersburg.
Several counties in Florida are under mandatory evacuation orders from emergency agencies. Both Gov Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm, clearing the way for state and federal aid to those affected by Hurricane Ian.
The problem is that as of Monday afternoon, Ian is a Category 2 hurricane, and it’s expected to increase in strength as it moves slowly over gulf waters that are 5–10°F warmer than average. That energy can cause rainfall totals to rise and winds to intensify, bolstering the storm surge that could inundate coastal areas.
A few student newspapers ran warning messages last week while forecasting models were still chewing on data to predict the path. “According to the National Hurricane Center, the … hurricane will arrive in the Gulf of Mexico early next week,” wrote Humberto Alejandro Carralero at Cape Coral High School.
“American models predict it will take a more western turn, while European models predict a more eastern turn. Both models agree that it is highly possible [Ian] will affect Florida.”
At St Stephen’s Episcopal in Bradenton, which is, we regret to report, just across the bay from St Petersburg, probably in the direct path of Hurricane Ian, Julia Craig and Jackson Nealis told their readers to “prepare by arranging extra provisions, clearing loose debris from lawns, and anticipating power outages. … Stay safe out there, Falcons!” they wrote.