The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are moving south as Hurricane Ian intensifies and threatens Central Florida. Sunday's home showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs remains on schedule, for now.
Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters on Monday that the team is in contact with the NFL to work on a contingency plan in the event Tampa is unable to host the game slated for "Sunday Night Football."
"Right now we're still monitoring things, but we're working things out with the league and we should have a decision hopefully later on (Monday) about what we're going to do," Bowles said.
In the meantime, the Bucs plan to move operations to Miami on Tuesday where they will make use of Dolphins facilities including their practice field and weight room. The Dolphins are on the road this week for a Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Miami's expected to experience storm conditions but is projected to miss the brunt of Ian's impact.
As of Monday afternoon, Ian sat off the southeast coast of Cuba and intensified to a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds up to 100 mph. Forecasts project Ian to intensify to a Category 3 storm before making landfall on the western tip of Cuba on Tuesday then further strengthening to a Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico between Cuba and Florida.
It's then projected to slow its trajectory before making landfall on Florida's west coast late Wednesday or early Thursday. Tampa is under a hurricane warning and remained in the storm's projected landfall cone as of Monday evening.
Ian threatens to deliver high winds and storm surge upon impact on Florida's west coast. Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Jeff Masters projected dire consequences for Tampa Bay in a worst-case scenario while speaking with the Tampa Bay Times.
"When I look at this storm I feel like I felt when Andrew was approaching Miami and when Katrina was approaching New Orleans," Masters said. "We have a potential historic catastrophe in the making.
"You're talking about a storm surge lasting multiple high tide cycles."
Ian's projected to travel through North Florida as a tropical storm with a trajectory targeting Georgia and the Carolinas. Residents in parts of Pinellas County faced a mandatory evacuation order starting Monday evening. Pinellas county contains Clearwater and is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area. St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is scheduled to close at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Tampa Bay Ray played their home finale on Sunday and are scheduled to start a nine-game road trip on Tuesday to finish their regular season. The University of South Florida is based in Tampa. It had not announced plan for its Saturday home game against East Carolina as of Monday afternoon. It did postpone an athletics banquet scheduled for Saturday.
Several Florida schools scheduled to host home games on Saturday
Florida State is scheduled to host Wake Forest on Saturday in Tallahassee. FSU announced on Monday that "nothing has changed for now" around the game's scheduled 3:30 p.m. kickoff. Tallahassee's located in the Florida panhandle around 205 miles north of Tampa.
Florida football is schedule to host Eastern Mississippi on Saturday in Gainsville, around 130 miles north of Tampa. That game remained "scheduled as planned" as of Monday afternoon, per a school statement. UCF is located in Orlando, around 85 miles northeast of Tampa. It's Saturday home game again SMU "remains slated for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff," per a school statement.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.