was so powerful that its winds were just a few miles per hour shy of making it a Category 5 storm as it on Wednesday. And it didn't take long for it to unleash its wrath on Florida's power grids.
Ian's eye began moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva islands by midday on Wednesday. Before 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 660,000 customers had their power knocked out, according to tracking on poweroutage.us. In less than 24 hours, that number surged to more than 2.6 million, although that number saw a slight decline by 10 a.m.
Southwest Florida was hit the hardest. During a press briefing on Thursday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that the region had 2.02 million reported outages alone as of 6 a.m., with just seven counties accounting for more than 1.5 million.
"Lee and Charlotte are basically off the grid at this point," DeSantis said, adding that linemen and crews are on their way to start rebuilding, but that it's going to be more work than just "connecting a power line back to a pole". "[Their] reconnects are really going to likely have to be rebuilding of that infrastructure."
Nearly everyone in Hardee County also appears to be without power as of 10 a.m., according to poweroutage.us. At least half the customers in several neighboring counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Collier, Highlands and Glades, were without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Reports of outages continued to extend north along the Gulf Coast, with major disruptions extending to the far northeast corner of the state. Ian, now a tropical storm, has started its trek out of Florida and up along the U.S. East Coast, where it is expected to continue creating damage, DeSantis said Thursday.
Southeast Florida, which also saw significant outages on Wednesday, has mostly recovered.
Florida officials have been warning for days of the potential power issues. Ian has been relentless on its track,when it raked the island on Tuesday, although power in some areas has been restored.
The National Weather Service warned prior to landfall that Hurricane Ian would cause "catastrophic" wind damage in Florida's southwest. The service's director, Ken Graham, said during a press briefing on Wednesday that the storm would take 24 hours to complete its journey across the state after the eye made landfall.
"This is going to be a storm that we talk about for many years to come," he said.
Florida Power & Light, the main provider to the homes and businesses reporting outages, tweeted on Wednesday that the company was expecting "widespread, extend" outages. Of its more than 5.7 million tracked customers through PowerOutage.us, more than 1 million had reportedly lost power.
The utility provider said that the storm's "catastrophic winds will mean parts of our system will need to be rebuilt – not restored." Early Thursday, they said that line workers were on their way to Collier County to work "around the clock" and restore power.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Wednesday that there were more than 30,000 linemen "staged and ready" to help restore power when it is safe to do so. Gov Ron DeSantis said later in the day that number had increased to 42,000.
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