Visit the FOX Weather Wire for live updates on Hurricane Ian as it barrels toward Florida. Click here for the latest forecast, evacuation orders and more.
TAMPA, Fla. – As Hurricane Ian continues to make its way toward the western coast of Florida, residents and emergency managers sprung to action starting over the weekend as they shopped, shoveled sandbags, boarded up, packed, evacuated and resourced with frenzied energy.
The wind will push the Gulf of Mexico into neighborhoods as storm-surge inundation of up to 10 feet is predicted in the Tampa Bay area. The surge, along with 12 to 16 inches of rain (up to 24 inches locally), motivated homeowners to find sandbags.
One Apollo Beach, Florida, resident waited in line for sandbags for three hours and only received 10 filled bags due to the need. After placing them around her home, she had to evacuate and leave the flooding to fate.
So many Floridians rushed out for sandbags across the Gulf Coast. One man said it was near chaos in Lynn Haven on the Florida Panhandle.
"I just wish, if everyone would just give 5 minutes of their time. I think we'd all get it done a whole lot faster, a lot easier," an exhausted Dirk Olliges told FOX Weather. "I'm trying to help out the elderly people, that's what I'm doing, but I'm gassed out right now."
The National Hurricane Center warns that hurricane-force winds, reaching 35 miles out from Ian's center, and tropical storm-force winds, reaching 115 miles from the storm's center, will cause widespread blackouts.
Florida Power and Light amassed an army of bucket trucks in Lake City, Florida, ready to be dispatched after the storm. FP&L is just one of the dozens of utility companies keeping the over 11 million Florida homes and businesses in light, refrigeration and air conditioning.
FEMA assembled an army as well. Row after row of ambulances and tractor trailers are standing by in Florida and Alabama waiting for Ian's onslaught. They carry 4 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and hundreds of mobile communications centers. Thousands of search and rescue crews, doctors, paramedics and nurses are waiting for the call too.
Monday was the calm before the storm only in terms of Florida weather. Hardware and grocery shelves quickly emptied as people boarded up homes, mustered hurricane kits and packed up to escape.
The bakery aisle in a Publix grocery store in downtown Tampa looked as if the hurricane already hit it. Listen to the store's calm music against the crazy scene:
While Hurricane Ian and prep activities appeared much calmer from 260 miles above, the cyclone didn't look any smaller. The strengthening storm dwarfed the International Space Station.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Hunters got a closer look as they flew through the eye of the storm. The plane named "Miss Piggy" bumped through the turbulence to take temperature, pressure and wind readings. Video taken inside shows the wild ride. Take a look at the thick seatbelt strapping in the meteorologist:
Cubans have already felt Hurricane Ian's wind and waves. The hurricane was slowly making its way across the western end of the island nation Monday night and Tuesday morning.