Ian could become 1st major hurricane to hit Tampa in more than 100 years

People walk on a Florida beach ahead of Hurricane Ian's arrival.
People walk on a Florida beach ahead of Hurricane Ian's arrival. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Tampa Bay is bracing for what could be its first hit from a major hurricane in 101 years.

Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Tuesday morning in Cuba, is expected to reach western Florida on Wednesday afternoon or evening as a strong Category 3 storm. Residents of Tampa, Fort Myers, and Sarasota are being encouraged to evacuate, with the National Hurricane Center warning of "a danger of life-threatening inundation ... from rising water moving inland from the coastline."

The last major hurricane to slam into Tampa Bay was the Tampa/Tarpon Springs Hurricane, which made landfall on Oct. 25, 1921. Today, it would be classified as a Category 3 storm, with winds at 120 mph. At the time, it was the most destructive hurricane to hit the Tampa area since 1848, The New York Times says, completely destroying homes and buildings and sending ships crashing into docks. Coastal waters rose by 11 feet, the National Weather Service said, and at least eight people died, most by drowning.

Tampa's beaches slope into a shallow sea floor, and the 1921 storm showed "how vulnerable the region is," Austen Flannery, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Tampa, told the Times. Read more about the connection between Tampa's geography and storm surges at The New York Times.

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