Hurricane Ian continues its ascent on Florida on Wednesday morning.
According to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, the storm was located about 60 miles west-southwest of Naples, Fla, moving north-northeast at 9 mph. The NHC expects Ian to move in that general direction but slow down, before turning toward the north on Thursday.
The expectation is still that Ian approaches the west coast of Florida, more specifically the area between Chokoloskee to Anclote River which includes Tampa Bay, this morning before moving onshore later today.
The center of the storm is then forecast to move over central Florida tonight and Thursday morning and then emerge over the western Atlantic by late Thursday.
In terms of impact, for right now, Ian’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 155 mph with high gusts, making it a Category 4 Hurricane, with those winds extended up to 40 miles from the center of the storm. Ian is expected to landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast as a “catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane” before weakening after landfall.
The danger in a lot of areas, aside from the wind, is rainfall and storm surges. According to the NHC, the storm surge in some areas, including in the area between Englewood to Bonita Beach, could reach 16 ft. The Tampa Bay area, from Anclote River to the Middle of Longboat Key, could see storm surges reach up to 6 ft.
For rainfall, the Florida Keys and South Florida could see mostly 6 to 8 inches, with some areas possibly getting 12 inches; Central and Northeast Florida could see 12 to 18 inches, with local maxima up to 24 inches; and Eastern Georgia and Coastal South Carolina could see 4 to 8 inches, with local maxima of 12 inches.
“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash, urban, and river flooding is expected across central Florida. Widespread considerable flash, urban, and river flooding is expected across portions of southern Florida through Wednesday, and northeast Florida, southeastern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina later this week through the weekend. Limited flash, urban, and river flooding is possible over portions of the Southeast and southern Mid-Atlantic later this week through the weekend,” the NHC’s warning reads.
Travel Continues to Deal with Ian’s Impact
Tampa International Airport has already shut its doors ahead of Ian’s arrival. The plan is for the airport to “reopen after damage assessments are made, which begins as soon as it is safe to do so,” the airport said.
“Even though the immediate area around the airport may be traversable, areas, where employees live, may not, delaying their ability to safely get to work and assist in reconstituting operations,” the airport said, adding that all passengers should check with their airline for the latest information on flight status, as the airport “does not determine airline schedules.”
The last flight from St.-Pete Clearwater International Airport departed the airport on Tuesday at 11 a.m. The airport said it “will provide an update when the airport terminal plans to reopen” and is also telling passengers to contact their airlines.
It is not just those Tampa-area airports that are seeing major disruptions because of Ian. Airports across Florida are reporting widespread cancellations on Wednesday according to flight tracking website FlightAware. That includes:
- All flights after 10 a.m. canceled to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO), which decided to stop operations after speaking with its airline partners and the National Weather Service. MCO expects to reopen on Friday after assessing damage to the airport property and facilities.
- Close to 50% of Wednesday flights canceled at Miami International Airport, which said on Tuesday that it remains open but that “flight operations are determined by the FAA and each individual airline. If you’re traveling soon, we recommend contacting your airline for flight details.
- Close to 25% of flights canceled at Ft. Lauderdale International (FLL), which also remains open. Officials at FLL said that “if you’re flying this week, check your airline for status updates before coming to the airport.”
- All flights canceled at Sarasota/Bradenton International, which closed at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
- Most flights canceled at Southwest Florida International in the Ft. Myers area.
- Most flights canceled at Key West International Airport, which also canceled all inbound and outbound flights on Tuesday.
Most airlines operating in or out of Florida airports had issued flight waivers prior to Ian’s expected arrival on Wednesday. Here is the latest update:
- American Airlines has issued its own flight waiver for travel through Oct. 1 for Daytona Beach, Destin, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Gainesville, Grand Cayman, Havana, Jacksonville, Key West, Kingston, Melbourne, Miami, Montego Bay, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Travel must be rebooked by Oct. 1 for travel on or before Oct. 8.
- Delta Air Lines, which said it will not operate out of Tampa, Sarasota, or Southwest Florida until Friday, has issued a travel waiver, effective Sept. 25 through Sept. 30, for Daytona Beach, Panama City, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Melbourne, West Palm Beach, Pensacola, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, and Ft. Walton Beach. Travel must be rebooked by Oct. 3 for fare differences to be waived.
- JetBlue has issued a flight waiver for its guests who are booked to travel through Sept. 30 from Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Travel can be rebooked through Oct. 3 for travel through Oct. 6.
- Southwest Airlines has issued its own flight waiver for travel through Sept. 30 for Northwest Florida Beaches Airport, Ft. Lauderdale, Havana, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Palm Beach, Pensacola, Southwest Florida, Sarasota, Tampa, and Destin-Ft. Walton.
- United Airlines is allowing rebooking for tickets on flights from Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Key West, Miami, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tampa, and West Palm Beach through Oct. 8.
On Tuesday, Walt Disney World announced that all four of its theme parks would shut their doors ahead of Ian’s arrival.
“Given the latest projections for Hurricane Ian, Walt Disney World theme parks and water parks will be closed on Wednesday, Sept. 28 and Thursday, Sept. 29. Disney Springs will be closed on Wednesday, Sept. 28,” Disney said in a message to travel partners, adding that it expects Disney Springs to be closed on Thursday, too.
“We are monitoring weather conditions so we can make timely decisions for the safety of our Cast and Guests, including when it’s safe for Cast to return to the site to prepare for reopening,” it said.
The other central Orlando-area theme park and resort, Universal Orlando, will also close on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29. Those closures include Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights Events. The expectation is that Universal could reopen on Friday, but said it is monitoring the weather and safety of its workers before announcing plans.