TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival, and the potential for strong winds and high waters, 8 On Your Side has a hurricane guide for Tampa Bay residents.
If you’re still going to hit the road or are visiting from out of town, here are the protocols for bridge and airport safety shutdowns:
The first thing to know is that the Florida Department of Transportation and local officials have plans to keep drivers safe during storms.
The only major bridge in the Tampa Bay area that might close from strong winds is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. FDOT officials have said in the past that its height is the biggest factor for closing down during high-speed winds.
If winds get over speeds of 40 miles per hour, “the extreme height at the top” makes it necessary to close the bridge down during a hurricane or tropical storm.
The other bridges in Tampa Bay don’t close down unless there’s debris or if the Florida Highway Patrol physically blocks a roadway during a storm. Drawbridges, however, may close for marine operation, but FDOT has said in the past that those steps usually happen “within 12 hours of expected tropical storm winds.”
Unless local law enforcement says it’s necessary, FDOT won’t close drawbridges to traffic, officials have told WFLA.com previously.
As the weather gets heavier and with big storms arriving in Florida, FDOT provided some tips on how to check for changes in traffic to make sure you can get somewhere safe.
Motorists can download the FL511 app for real-time traffic information. FDOT also recommends filling your gas tank up or charging electric vehicles before the storm hits. Drivers should also stock vehicles with emergency supplies like snacks, water, first aid kits, batteries, and flashlights.
While weather can hit bridges hard during big storms, they’re not the only things that close down. Airports may close as well if the winds get fast enough, in addition to other danger factors.
In the past, TPA said they limit their shuttles and other operations once winds being to stay at 40 mph, and if wind speeds reach 50 mph, they’ll “cease all operations.” Individual airlines make their own decisions on aircraft diversions.
Travelers are advised to keep a watch out for strong wind, lightning, and tornado warnings when checking on ground stops. Passengers will be able to get the most up-to-date information for flight delays from individual airlines.
In the City of Tampa, there are several movable bridges. The city does not run them after winds hit speeds of 30 miles per hour or faster. During storms, bridges will stay in the down position, according to previous statements from city officials. Bridge crews will monitor storm progress.
Ahead of Ian’s pending arrival, the St. Pete-Clearwater Airport, PIE, announced it would close its airport terminal building at 1 p.m on Sept. 27 in accordance with county evacuation requirements.