Gulf Islands National Seashore Braces for Hurricane Ian, Closes Public Access

by Jon D. B.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible-light image of Hurricane Irma over the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico. The image revealed a clear eye with powerful bands of thunderstorms circling the eye.. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Currently a Category 1, Hurricane Ian is rapidly intensifying as it heads for Florida, and the National Park Service is at the ready.

As Ian approaches, Gulf Islands National Seashore is closing the Florida Areas of the park to all visitors. Closures began at 8 p.m. Sept. 25, in preparation for what was then Tropical Storm Ian. Now, however, Ian poses a far greater threat as a Category 1 hurricane. Meteorologists anticipate Ian becoming a Category 3 by tonight.

To prepare for Hurricane Ian, Gulf Islands is closing:

  • The Fort Pickens Area
  • Perdido Key Area (Johnson Beach)
  • Opal Beach
  • Okaloosa Area

“The Mississippi Area, Naval Live Oaks Area, and Highway 399 will remain open at this time,” the park cites. “Working closely with the NWS, the park will continue to monitor conditions and will provide updates as necessary.”

The national seashore also warned all campers currently residing in park campgrounds would need to evacuate by noon today (Monday, Sept. 26). In addition, all reservations for Fort Pickens Campground will be canceled until further notice.

“Due to potentially deteriorating conditions forecasted by the National Weather Service Office, high surf, and the likelihood for significant flooding on the park roadways, the park will close the Florida Areas until further notice,” announced Superintendent Darrell Echols.

“Our priority is to ensure the safest environment possible for park visitors and staff. The park will announce changes as appropriate,” Echols continued. “But current conditions do not allow the park to remain open.”

Hurricane Ian to ‘Rapidly Intensify’ Monday

Created in 1971 as part of the National Park Service, Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches 160 miles along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Mississippi. The park protects barrier islands, maritime forests, historic forts, bayous, and marine habitat – all of which are now under threat from Hurricane Ian in Gulf Islands’ Florida Area.

According to AccuWeather meteorologists, Hurricane Ian is to “rapidly intensify” throughout Monday, Sept. 26. Unfortunately, they believe the storm “is forecast to become a Category 4 behemoth in the Gulf of Mexico by midweek.”

As of this article, Ian had already produced sustained winds of 80 mph while moving northwest at 13 mph. The storm currently rages 200 miles southeast of western Cuba. Winds of 115 mph have been recorded on the edges of the hurricane as it moves north.

Meteorologists expect Hurricane Ian to make landfall on Florida’s west coast, or the Florida Panhandle, by midday Thursday, Sept. 27. As a result, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is declaring a “state of emergency” for the entirety of the state. Storm conditions are “projected to constitute a major disaster,” he says, and all citizens of Cuba, the Florida Keys, and Florida Peninsula need to have a hurricane plan in place.