The Tampa Bay area should take caution even as Hurricane Ian's track shifts south
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and others spoke to the press early Tuesday morning about preparations ahead of the storm.
Florida emergency officials warned that the greater Tampa Bay region should still remain on alert, even after Hurricane Ian appears to be making landfall to the south.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Tuesday morning that Hurricane Ian was on a track to hit Venice in southern Sarasota County on Wednesday night around 6 p.m.
"It's very important to say, that Tampa Bay region, you are not out of the woods yet," Guthrie said. "There is still going to be a storm surge event in the Tampa Bay region — we are waiting on that data to come in to see what those actual numbers are going to be.
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"You need to heed the warnings that are in place for Pinellas, Tampa, Manatee, and Hillsborough. And those who have already evacuated should not return now."
He and Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge. DeSantis said the effects would likely eclipse what Hurricane Charley brought when it hit Punta Gorda in 2004.
More than 2 million Floridians from Hernando County south to Lee County have been ordered to evacuate. DeSantis said the goal was to "seek higher ground," not travel to another state. He recommended Floridians evacuate to the southeast, not the north.
He also said Visit Florida had partnered with Expedia to offer emergency accommodations.
With the shift of the storm, DeSantis said some potential paths may bring power outages, inland flooding, downed trees and communications disruptions to the interior part of the state.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma knocked out power to a nursing home in Hollywood, killing eight elderly residents. Florida law was changed to require such facilities to have on-site generators, and DeSantis said assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are now 100% in compliance.
More than 5,000 members of the Florida Guard have been activated. Urban search and rescue teams are on standby and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aviation section employees are also on standby.