While Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Tuesday morning said the forecast for Hurricane Ian’s impact on the city “hasn’t changed a great deal,” the slow-moving storm is expected to bring a “devastating amount of water” to the Tampa Bay area.
Castor also said she received a call from President Biden, who said he also had Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell in his office.
“He just wanted to ensure that we had all the resources that we needed and clearly wishing us the best,” Castor said.
Castor said a thunderstorm on Monday evening already saturated the ground and caused street closures.
“We are doing all that we can right now … to mitigate pumping water out of our stormwater ponds, letting water over the dam, doing all that we can to make sure that that water has a clear path, somewhere to go,” the mayor said.
“It’s going to be in our rivers, it’s going to be in our streams, it’s going to be in our canals, it’s going to be in our stormwater drains and ditches,” Castor added.
“It can get better if the storm comes ashore a little south of us, and I don’t know that it can get much worse, but I’m sure there’s a scenario that says that it could,” the mayor said. “Right now, a storm that slows down for 24 to 48 hours and just continuously dumps rain into the Tampa Bay area is devastating.”
A curfew is expected to be implemented, Castor said.
“We are prepared to secure these neighborhoods as best we can so that anyone that does not belong in these neighborhoods is not coming back in post evacuation,” Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor added.
Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Barbara Tripp said crews are currently helping to evacuate the nursing homes that are in the evacuation area, assisting with evacuating those patients to facilities on higher grounds. At least 41 patients from a nursing home in south Tampa are being relocated to central Tampa, Tripp said.
City officials have also been speaking to CEOs of hospitals throughout the city.
O’Connor said a storm barrier has been put up around Tampa General Hospital.
“So this is going to be the test right here, but I’ve talked to them and they aren’t evacuating anyone at this point,” O’Connor said. “But they have systems in place that individuals will be protected. And they have plenty of resources, generators working, and they’re comfortable that they can protect their patients at Tampa General.”