An ominous warning has been announced from Tampa, Florida, Mayor Jane Castor as rapidly intensifying Hurricane Ian nears the Gulf of Mexico - "Now is the time to prepare. Don't wait until it's too late."
The warning comes as Hurricane Ian continues to spin across the Caribbean Sea and is projected to rapidly intensify, possibly becoming a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) when it enters the Gulf of Mexico and moves closer to the Sunshine State.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in Florida and is encouraging all Floridians to prepare now. In addition, President Joe Biden approved Florida's emergency declaration and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to Tropical Storm Ian.
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And while the entire state of Florida is under a state of emergency, DeSantis had a special message for people who are new to the Sunshine State.
"I know we've got a lot of people that have moved into the state of Florida. Just make sure you make your preparations," he said. "Also, make sure that if you're doing things like using generators, that you're using those properly. Those generators cannot be operated inside your structure or your home. The exhaust has to go outside if it's inside. And that could be something that is fatal. So please, if you're going to use a generator, make sure that that exhaust is going outside your residence."
At a news conference on Sunday morning, Castor said the city of Tampa has begun preparing for possible impacts from Hurricane Ian.
"We practice and exercise on a regular basis, ensuring that we are prepared before a storm hits and that we are prepared to serve our community in the event that a storm does hit," she said.
Castor was also asking members of the community to prepare as well.
"That means getting prepared," she said. "Ensuring that you've taken care of your home. Ensuring that you're paying attention to your neighbors. Getting those preparedness kits together."
Key West, Florida, hasn't taken a direct hit from a hurricane since 1846, but it could be one of the first locations in the United States to feel the effects of Hurricane Ian.
Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined FOX Weather on Sunday and said the city has been preparing for Hurricane Ian since Friday.
"Make sure you've got food, water, make sure you've got a good supply of medications, and make sure you have taken into consideration your pets," she said. "The people of Key West are pretty well versed in hurricane preparation. So we are sending out these preparations mostly for the newer people that have come to Key West."
Many Floridians didn't need to be warned to stock up. In Saint Petersburg, grocery store shelves were cleared out of water and other staples.
Johnston said communication would be key when it comes to getting out important information like any evacuations that may be ordered.
"We have several modes of communication," she said. "We have our city website, which has updates as soon as we get updates, and we have a communication tool called CivicReady. That's a system that our residents have signed up for, and we give out alerts."
But as of Sunday afternoon, no scheduled evacuations have been announced.
While the weather has been calmer over the weekend, things are about to change drastically in the coming days.
The storm has the potential for dangerous storm surge, flash flooding, strong winds, heavy rainfall and even isolated tornados. Emergency officials say now is the time to prepare and to know if you're in an evacuation zone – zones where there's a threat of being inundated or cut off from floodwaters.
As emergency managers like to say, people should run from the water and hide from the wind. And already, residents have been scrambling for supplies. Food and water are quickly disappearing from store shelves in the Fort Myers area, and some gas stations are already running out of fuel.