TAMPA, Fla. – Hurricane Ian has its sights set on Florida, and residents on the state’s west coast are busy preparing.
With the storm rapidly intensifying, there are fears it could bring historic flooding the region.
“We will see on the Gulf Coast of Florida heavy rain, strong winds, flash flooding, storm surge and perhaps isolated tornado activity,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
With the Tampa area in Hurricane Ian’s path, locals are not taking any chances.
“I’ve been in Florida since 2005 so I’m definitely used to it,” said resident Jade Beverly. “We know when to worry and when not to worry, but this one feels like a little more real.”
Officials also offered stern warnings for residents not to take the rapidly intensifying storm lightly.
“I want everyone to understand the seriousness of this situation,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. “Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Several locations set up throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties for people to fill up sand bags, and school closures are already in effect, as many will serve as shelters until the storm passes.
A mandatory evacuation order is underway for parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee Counties.
Additionally, 5,000 Florida Guardsmen have been deployed and are standing by.
“Even if the track (of the storm) is off the coast of Tampa and St. Pete, you’re still looking at a really significant amount of rain, you’re looking at a lot of wind, you’re looking at a lot of storm surge,” said DeSantis.
Tampa General Hospital is also prepared to continue caring for patients, even during the worst of the storm.
As for how bad the storm surge can get, it’s something that is concerning officials the most.
“This could very well be the next 100 year storm,” said Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes.