Tampa, one of the fastest-growing financial services centers in the United States, was hit after authorities ordered mass evacuations ahead of the worst storm to threaten the city of Gulf Florida in a century. , is now empty.

Tens of thousands of workers at banks, insurance companies, and investment firms have returned home to Tampa, a metropolitan area of ​​3.2 million, to prepare for the onslaught of Hurricane Ian. Companies such as JPMorgan Chase, MetLife, Fisher Investments, Raymond James Financial and USAA have closed offices or asked employees to work remotely if possible.

Local officials expect more than 300,000 people to evacuate areas near Tampa Bay, which could be hit by storm surges of 5 to 10 feet, according to forecasters. More businesses voluntarily closed after Ian threatened to hit the area with winds of up to 140 mph late Wednesday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

“The impact will be much wider than where the eye of the storm happens to land,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a briefing on Tuesday. “Some areas will experience devastating flooding and life-threatening storm surges.”

Ian was able to spare Tampa and change course, but the city didn’t miss the chance.

“My biggest concern is how big this is going to be,” said Steve Morley, senior vice president of economic development at the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. I have no problem.”

Morley, who has spent the past decade trying to convince businesses to move to Tampa, said Monday afternoon he had to leave his offices in the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa after city officials ordered him to evict. I had to. He took refuge in his home ten miles from Tampa Bay.

Miami has received a lot of attention for its transformation into the Wall Street of the South, such as investor Ken Griffin’s recent decision to move his nearly $50 billion Citadel hedge fund there. But Tampa has expanded on its own, attracting tens of thousands of jobs in areas such as banking, investment management and insurance.

According to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, over the past five years, the financial and professional services industry has grown 13% (40,000 jobs) in the Tampa area and now employs 344,000 people.

JPMorgan Chase, which has approximately 6,000 employees throughout the Tampa area, has sent employees home. Raymond James, based in St. Petersburg near Tampa, will close its offices on Wednesday and send its 5,200 employees home. His MetLife Inc., an insurance company, has urged his 1,000 employees in Tampa to work from home if possible.

Insurance company USAA closed its offices to help employees prepare for the storm. Fisher Investments has also sent about 700 employees home.

Citigroup, which operates a sprawling campus in Tampa with about 8,400 employees, did not respond to a request for comment. Kathy Wood’s Ark Investments and Raymond James Financial, headquartered in St. Petersburg, were not available for comment.

Millions of Tampasent. The St. Petersburg region rushed to prepare for the storm. The evacuation order covered the coastal areas of Tampa and his three counties around St. Petersburg: Pinellas, Hillsboro, and Pasco. Schools and courts have been ordered to remain closed until at least Thursday, but St. Pete Clearwater International Airport will close at 1 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

As residents waited to fill the free sandbags provided at the city garage, cars backed up block by block and authorities forced people out. Supermarkets were flooded with shoppers seeking bottled water, batteries and canned food, with reports of some stores running out of bottled water or limiting purchases. Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research, said many motorists rushed to gas stations to fill up their cars as the region prepared for the worst storm in his 101 years.

Several storms have approached Tampa, including last year’s Elsa and 2017’s Irma, but this is the last devastating storm to hit Tampa St. Saint Petersburg in 1921.

“Things are kind of wild in Tampa, and most people are in panic mode,” he said, like most people, having to bring work home Monday after offices closed. On Tuesday morning, she and her husband drove their 10-year-old son to Atlanta after it was revealed that Ian would crash into the city. I took them and evacuated with my friends.

Azarsepandan, 42, grew up in Miami, witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Andrew as a child, and said he doesn’t want to weather the storm like Ian.

“It’s such a huge storm,” she said.

Demand for diesel fuel to run generators has surged more than 10-fold, mainly in Tampa, said Eliot Vancil, president of state distributor Fuel Logic. Nursing homes, supermarkets and hospitals across the state are looking for the fuel, but most of the demand is in and around Tampa, he said. He said he’s not running out of fuel, but “running out of time to get it done” before Ian hits.

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