Tampa Bay International Airport announced that it would be shutting on Tuesday afternoon as Hurricane Ian moves towards Florida.
The major airport, which has 280 daily flights, will suspend operations at 5pm amid the threat of the Category 3 storm which is set to bring more than 100mph winds, severe downpours and “life-threatening” coastal surge to the west coast of Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to heed warnings to evacuate and seek higher ground due to potential for “catstrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge”.
The most recent weather models have Hurricane Ian projected to make landfall south of Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast.
Airport authorities asked those taking the final flights out of Tampa to get to the airport at least two hours before takeoff due to the high volume of travellers.
The 5pm closure will allow the airport to prepare the airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment and any remaining aircraft, officials said in a statement.
The airport, including the main terminal, airsides and parking garages will be shut to all visitors at 5pm as staff were hurrying to lay sandbags ahead of the closing.
St Pete-Clearwater International Airport will also close at 1pm on Tuesday due to mandatory evacuations in Pinellas County.
Resorts, hotels and facilities across Florida were closing due to the major hurricane which is expected to make landfall on Wednesday.
The enormous, Category 3 storm was 200 miles south of Key West on Tuesday morning after it lashed Cuba with heavy rain and winds overnight, bringing risk of storm surge and landslides.