Tampa International Airport (TPA) closed this morning in preparation for the arrival of Tropical Storm Idalia.
Life-threatening winds of up to 115mph and a storm surge of up to 11ft have been predicted as the potential hurricane heads towards Florida’s big bend area. It is expected to reach land tomorrow (Wednesday) and cause considerable damage in the Tampa region.
So far, TPA is the only airport in the Sunshine State to announce its closure, although others say they are monitoring the progress of Idalia. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency and warned residents the storm could have a ‘catastrophic’ impact.
In a statement released on X, formerly Twitter, TPA said: “The closure will allow the Airport and its partners to prepare the airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment and any remaining aircraft before Idalia’s expected landfall early Wednesday as a potential major hurricane.
“Some cargo and private aircraft operations could continue overnight, but all air traffic will cease by 12.01am (7.01am UK time) Tuesday morning. The Airport, including the Main Terminal and Airsides will be closed to all visitors and is not equipped to function as a shelter.”
Meanwhile, tourist attractions in the region are preparing for the storm’s arrival. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, its Adventure Isle Water Park, and Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens have already announced they will close early today and remain shut until at least Thursday. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort say they are currently operating normally but urged guests to keep an eye out for updates.
Port Tampa Bay has also been closed, although it is not scheduled to deal with any cruise ships until Thursday, when Royal Caribbean’s Seranade of the Seas and Carnival’s Carnival Paradise are both returning. This should happen as normal, unless the storm causes significant damage.
Port Canaveral expects to be hit by Idalia on Wednesday as the storm passes over Florida. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas should call there today, while MSC Seaside should be in port on Thursday, weather permitting.
Visitors currently in Tampa are advised to seek safe shelter during the storm. Those due to return to the UK this week should keep a regular check on their flight’s status.
The hurricane watch covers areas from Englewood to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay, while a tropical storm watch extends from Englewood to Chokoloskee and the Dry Tortugas.
The state has mobilised 1,100 National Guard members who have been provided with 2,400 high-water vehicles and 12 aircraft to assist rescue and recovery efforts.
Idalia is currently gathering pace across the Yucatan Peninsula towards the Gulf of Mexico, prompting the Foreign Office to update its travel advice for Mexico with a warning for tourists to check the storm’s progress with the US National Hurricane Center.
The storm is forecasted to become a Category 3 hurricane as it passes over warm Gulf waters. Idalia could bring up to six inches of rain to western Cuba, Florida’s west coast, Panhandle and southern Georgia, potentially causing flash flooding.
The FCDO has updated its advice for Florida, warning of heavy rain, high winds and a storm surge and asking visitors to follow local guidance.