One of the things that I hate the most about living in Florida – any part of Florida, at that – is that its geographic location makes it a frequent target for tropical cyclones.
Just look at a map of North America and you’ll see why the Sunshine State – also known as “America’s Droopy Dick” or “America’s Wang” – is one of the most frequently visited places in the United States by hurricanes. It is a peninsula that juts 447 miles southward from the rest of the Lower 48 states and is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and separated from the island of Cuba by the body of water that links them – the Florida Straits.
And because Florida is so far south, and because it is in the subtropical zone, we who live here are bound to get hit by tropical storms that form either off the west coast of Africa or down in the western edges of the Caribbean Sea. Meteorologists call the region that encompasses the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. “Hurricane Alley.” Tropical systems are more likely to develop in this region because of the interaction between the heat of the summer sun, ocean waters, the steering currents in the atmosphere, and the Coriolis effect.
As I write this, I am keeping a wary eye on the latest threat from the tropics – Hurricane Ian. It formed in the western Caribbean late last week and is now, thanks to those steering currents, high ocean temperatures, and the Coriolis effect, making a beeline toward west central Florida, which is where I have lived since the spring of 2016.
And, as I suspected ever since I heard about then-Tropical Storm Ian on Saturday, we in the Tampa Bay area are now under a hurricane watch, which will more than likely be upgraded to a hurricane warning by the end of the day or tomorrow morning, depending on the hurricane’s trajectory.
Here is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, which is located not too far from the neighborhood where I lived prior to my move to Lithia six years ago:
Hurricane Ian Advisory Number 14
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL AL092022
1100 AM EDT Mon Sep 26 2022
…IAN FORECAST TO CONTINUE RAPIDLY STRENGTHENING…
…CONDITIONS IN WESTERN CUBA TO DETERIORATE THIS EVENING AND
TONIGHT WITH SIGNIFICANT WIND AND STORM SURGE IMPACTS EXPECTED…
SUMMARY OF 1100 AM EDT…1500 UTC…INFORMATION
ABOUT 100 MI…160 KM W OF GRAND CAYMAN
ABOUT 240 MI…385 KM SE OF THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…80 MPH…130 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT…NW OR 325 DEGREES AT 13 MPH…20 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…980 MB…28.94 INCHES
WATCHES AND WARNINGS
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:
The Tropical Storm Watch for the west coast of Florida has been
extended from Chokoloskee southward to Flamingo.
A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the Florida Keys from
Seven Mile Bridge eastward to the Channel 5 Bridge in the Middle
A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Lake Okeechobee.
SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
* Grand Cayman
* Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio, and Artemisa
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas
* Lower Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge westward to Key West
* Dry Tortugas
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for…
* Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to Key West
* Dry Tortugas
* Florida Bay
* Anclote River southward to the Card Sound Bridge
* Tampa Bay
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…
* Englewood to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
* Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
* Englewood southward to Flamingo
* Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge to the Channel 5 Bridge
* Lake Okeechobee
A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected
somewhere within the warning area, in this case within 24 to
36 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be
rushed to completion.
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are
expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.
A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-
threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the
coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours.
For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather
Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at
A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible
within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours
before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force
winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or
A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are
possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
Interests in central Cuba, the remainder of the Florida Keys, and
the Florida peninsula should monitor the progress of Ian. Additional
watches may be need later today farther north along the west coast
For storm information specific to your area, please monitor
products issued by your national meteorological service.
DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK
At 1100 AM EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Ian was located
near latitude 19.1 North, longitude 82.7 West. Ian is moving toward
the northwest near 13 mph (20 km/h). A north-northwestward motion is
expected to begin later today, followed by a northward motion on
Tuesday with a slightly slower forward speed. A turn toward the
north-northeast with a further reduction in forward speed is
forecast on Wednesday. On the forecast track, the center of Ian is
expected to pass near or west of the Cayman Islands today, and near
or over western Cuba tonight and early Tuesday. Ian will then emerge
over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, pass west of the
Florida Keys late Tuesday, and approach the west coast of Florida on
Wednesday into Thursday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 80 mph (130 km/h)
with higher gusts. Rapid strengthening is expected during the next
day or so, and Ian is forecast to become a major hurricane tonight
or early Tuesday when it is near western Cuba and remain a major
hurricane over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the
center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles
The minimum central pressure based on Air Force and NOAA Hurricane
Hunter aircraft data is 980 mb (28.94 inches).
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
Key messages for Ian can be found in the Tropical Cyclone Discussion
under AWIPS header MIATCDAT4 and WMO header WTNT44 KNHC and on the
web at hurricanes.gov/text/MIATCDAT4.shtml.
STORM SURGE: The combination of storm surge and the tide will
cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising
waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the
following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if
the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide…
*Anclote River to Middle of Longboat Key, FL including Tampa
*Middle of Longboat Key, FL to Englewood, FL…5-8 ft
*Englewood, FL to Bonita Beach, FL including Charlotte Harbor…
*Bonita Beach, FL to East Cape Sable, FL…3-5 ft
*East Cape Sable, FL to Card Sound Bridge, FL including Florida
*Florida Keys including the Dry Tortugas…2-4 ft
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to
the right of the center, where the surge will be accompanied by
large waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing
of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short
distances. For information specific to your area, please see
products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast
Storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 9 to 14 feet
above normal tide levels along the coast of western Cuba in areas of
onshore winds in the hurricane warning area tonight and early
Storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 2 to 4 feet above
normal tide levels along the immediate coast in areas of onshore
winds in the Cayman Islands today.
WIND: Tropical storm and hurricane conditions are expected on Grand
Cayman today. Hurricane conditions are expected within the warning
area in Cuba tonight, with tropical storm conditions expected
by late today. Destructive winds are possible where the core of Ida
moves across western Cuba.
Tropical storm conditions are expected within the tropical storm
warning area in Cuba tonight and Tuesday. Tropical storm conditions
are possible on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac today.
Hurricane conditions are possible along the west coast of Florida
within the Hurricane Watch area on Wednesday, with tropical
storm conditions possibly beginning by Tuesday night.
Tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area in the
lower Florida Keys and are possible in the watch area in the middle
Florida Keys on Tuesday. Tropical storm conditions are possible
within the watch area along the Florida west coast by Tuesday
RAINFALL: Ian is expected to produce the following rainfall through
Jamaica: An additional 1 to 3 inches, with local maximum of 5
inches, especially along the south coastal region.
Cayman Islands: 3 to 6 inches, with local maxima up to 8 inches.
Western Cuba: 6 to 10 inches, with local maxima up to 16 inches.
These rains may produce flash flooding and mudslides in areas of
higher terrain over western Cuba.
Florida Keys: 4 to 6 inches.
Central West Florida: 8 to 10 inches, with local maxima up to 15
Remainder of the Florida Peninsula: 3 to 8 inches.
Heavy rainfall is expected to affect North Florida, eastern portions
of the Florida Panhandle, and portions of the Southeastern U.S.
Friday and Saturday.
Widespread considerable flash and urban flooding and prolonged
significant river flooding impacts are likely mid-to-late week in
central Florida given already saturated conditions. Flash and urban
flooding impacts are also possible with rainfall across the Florida
Keys and the Florida peninsula through mid-week. Limited flooding
impacts and rises on area streams and rivers are also possible over
northern Florida and portions of the Southeast mid-to-late week.
TORNADOES: A few tornadoes are possible late tonight and Tuesday
across the Florida Keys and the southern and central Florida
SURF: Swells generated by Ian are affecting Jamaica and the Cayman
Islands. Swells will spread northwestward to the southwestern coast
of Cuba and the coasts of Honduras, Belize, and the Yucatan
Peninsula of Mexico today and tonight. Swells are expected to begin
affecting the Florida Keys Tuesday and spread northward along the
west coast of Florida through Wednesday. These swells are
likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Please consult products from your local weather office.
Next intermediate advisory at 200 PM EDT.
Next complete advisory at 500 PM EDT.
I have already gone through at least three hurricanes or tropical storms since I first moved to Tampa eight months after my mother’s death in July of 2015. Before that, I lived through Hurricanes Andrew, Irene, the early stages of Katrina, and Wilma, plus a few others, so I’m not as terrified about Hurricane Ian as I would be if I was a new transplant to Florida and had never experienced a tropical cyclone.
Nevertheless, I am still nervous about it, and not just because it’s a major hurricane with the potential to destroy or seriously damage our house, but because even if we come out of Ian without so much as a broken window or damaged roof, we could lose power for days, even weeks, at a time when the temperatures in the Tampa Bay area are still too summer-like. It’s hot, sunny, and humid now, and the only thing that makes living this far south bearable is the existence of air conditioning.
In 2005 – the year that Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma struck Miami – we had a mixed experience with power outages. I don’t remember being without power after the former; I distinctly recall feeling a sense of relief that though Katrina had caused some flooding in our neighborhood, we did not lose electricity either during the storm’s passage or in the aftermath.
With Wilma, which hit South Florida late in the season and did far more damage than was expected, my mom and I were without electricity for over a month; weirdly, the gated community where we lived in 2005 had a bifurcated power grid, so half of the units had electricity, while the other half did not. We were fortunate to have friends in the section of East Wind Lake Village that had power, so for the duration of the outage, we schlepped over to two of our neighbors’ townhouses, with our travel bags stuffed with towels and a change of clothes, to shower and change into clean outfits, as well as to eat hot meals.
Wilma hit South Florida on October 24, 2005, one week after my mother’s 77th birthday, and Florida Power & Light restored our power a day or so before Thanksgiving, which is the longest time that I’ve ever lived without electricity, cable TV, or Internet service. I survived, of course, but it was an unpleasant and unnerving time, full of boredom, bad moods – on my part – and a desire to get back to “normal.”
So, if I seem a bit more fretful than usual over the next few days, I hope you’ll understand why I am apprehensive about Hurricane Ian. Right now, I am hoping that the eye stays out to sea and does not make landfall anywhere near the Tampa Bay area, and that we don’t lose power. Not just because I don’t want to die in a hurricane – although of course that is a concern – but because I often become irritable and difficult to live with if I am under a lot of stress or can’t stick to my established routine. (Add to this the awkwardness of having an ex-girlfriend as a “caregiver,” and all the emotional baggage that this entails, and you’ll understand why I worry.)
I will continue to post on my blog if the weather permits. Today we should not see any bad Ian-related weather issues, but as the hurricane moves closer to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, that will change, and drastically. I try to be an optimist, but I also must accept that we are likely going to be without power for a minimum of one week, and if the damage to the Tampa Bay area is bad, maybe as long as three weeks or even a month. I don’t like that, and I hope that it doesn’t come to pass, but it’s certainly a possibility.
I need to go take my shower and change into street clothes, so I will close this post here. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the less stormy side of things.
 And people say a college education is worthless! I learned all of this in Professor “Mac” McWorther’s Energy and Natural Environment class in the Fall Term of the 1985-1986 academic year at what was then the South Campus of Miami-Dade Community College. (Go, Jaguars!)