Bucs bound for Miami as Hurricane Ian strengthens, threatens Tampa; Chiefs showdown on schedule for now

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 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, when they will make use of the 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 is expected to experience storm conditions but is projected to miss the brunt of Ian's impact.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, speaks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Sunday's Super Bowl 55 rematch featuring Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes is at risk because of Hurricane Ian. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Ian projected to strengthen to Category 4 storm, threaten Tampa

As of Tuesday morning, Ian made landfall in western Cuba and had intensified to a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds up to 110 mph. Forecasts project the storm will strengthen to a Category 4 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, and Orlando officials said Tuesday that they expect the storm to go directly over the city. 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 then 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.

Rays on the road; State's college football schedule packed with home games

The Tampa Bay Rays played their home finale on Sunday and are scheduled to start a nine-game trip on Tuesday to finish their regular season.

The University of South Florida is based in Tampa. It said Tuesday that its game against East Carolina has been moved to Boca Raton. That game, which will be played at Florida Atlantic's stadium, will kick off at 2:30 p.m.

Florida State is scheduled to host Wake Forest on Saturday in Tallahassee. FSU announced 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. The school said Tuesday that it is canceling classes through the rest of the week.

Florida football was scheduled to host Eastern Washington on Saturday in Gainesville, which sits about 130 miles north of Tampa. The school announced Tuesday that it was postponing the game until Sunday. The school canceled classes from Wednesday through Friday, too.

UCF is located in Orlando, around 85 miles northeast of Tampa. Its Saturday home game again SMU has been moved to Sunday.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.