Hurricane Ian to be storm of the century in Tampa, meteorologist says: ‘People need to take this seriously’

It’s the storm of the century — Tampa is bracing for its first major hurricane in more than 100 years as Ian bears down on Florida’s Gulf Coast with threats of devastating winds, flooding and tornadoes, a National Weather Service meteorologist told the Daily News on Monday.

“We’ve been brushed by storms and hurricanes over the last 10, 15, 20 years, but nothing (has been) this close and of this strong of a storm,” said meteorologist Rick Davis of the NWS’ Tampa Office.

“For most people in the Tampa Bay region, this will be the strongest storm that they’ve seen in their lifetime.”

hurricane ian to be storm of the century in tampa, meteorologist says: ‘people need to take this seriously’

In this NOAA handout image taken by the GOES satellite at 16:56 UTC: shows Hurricane Ian as it moves toward western Cuba on September 26, 2022 in the Caribbean Sea. (Handout/Getty Images)

Tampa was last struck by a major hurricane in 1921. Forecasts on Monday projected Ian to be just 20 to 50 miles off the shore of the Tampa Bay area by Wednesday, likely smashing the area with hurricane-force winds, power outages and damage, Davis said.

Ian threatened to become a Category 4 hurricane as it moved through the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida.

“The latest forecasts are showing some slowing trends, and so if it slows down, we could have storm surge for a longer period of time, hurricane force winds for the entire (Tampa) area for a very long period of time,” Davis said.

hurricane ian to be storm of the century in tampa, meteorologist says: ‘people need to take this seriously’

Empty shelves in the water aisle greet shoppers at a supermarket in Kissimmee, Florida, on September 26, 2022 as people prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian. (GREGG NEWTON/Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Image)

“We’re also expecting heavy rainfall of 6- to 12-inches, maybe even more,” he continued. “That would create not just storm-surge flooding, but flooding in rivers and places inland, and then there’s the potential for tornadoes. We’re gonna be on the favorable side for tornadoes, so we could have multiple tornadoes as well. This system will have essentially all the threats that accompany hurricanes.”

Davis said the latest forecast projects Ian to move ashore near Cedar Key, Fla., about 135 miles north of Tampa.

hurricane ian to be storm of the century in tampa, meteorologist says: ‘people need to take this seriously’

A long line of shoppers are seen past a person pushing cases of water outside a retail warehouse as people rush to prepare for Tropical Storm Ian, in Kissimmee, Florida, on September 25, 2022. (GREGG NEWTON/AFP via Getty Images)

“If you’re in a low-lying area, if you’re in a storm-surge area, if you live on the beaches or in mobile homes and you are called for an evacuation, we strongly suggest that you do evacuate into a safer location,” Davis said.

“At certain points, the emergency response people — police, fire departments — won’t travel from the mainlands to get to barrier islands if the winds are too strong. People need to take this seriously and take proper precautions.”

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