Ian is expected to strengthen into a powerful Category 4 hurricane capable of catastrophic damage as it heads toward the Florida Keys. The latest forecast models show Ian tracking toward Florida’s west coast or northwestern panhandle, with a possible direct hit on Tampa Bay — a densely populated, low-lying region that’s highly vulnerable to storm surge. On Tuesday, officials in Hillsborough County, which covers portions of Tampa, ordered a mandatory evacuation of 300,000 people. County Administrator Bonnie Wise said people should seek shelter with friends or family well away from Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Bonnie Wise: “We did not make this decision easily, but the storm poses a serious threat, and we must do everything we can to protect our residents. And I can’t stress this enough: Evacuation shelters are a last resort. They are not comfortable places. They could be crowded, and they could be noisy, and you could be in a shelter for days.”