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Ian moves across Florida as a tropical storm after slamming coast as a Category 4 hurricane

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Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida
Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida as a Category 4 11:42

Follow Friday's latest developments here. Our earlier coverage is below.

Hurricane Ian's winds diminished enough overnight for it to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, but it was still packing a strong punch as it made its way across Florida toward the Atlantic Ocean. Storm surges remained a big concern.

Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, in southwestern Florida Wednesday as a major Category 4 storm — the second-strongest possible category on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the hurricane center.

But by 5 a.m. EDT Thursday, Ian's sustained winds were 65 mph, 9 mph below the threshold to be a hurricane. Ian's center was some 40 miles southeast of Orlando and 35 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral. It was heading northeast at 8 mph.

Ian knocked out power across wide swaths of Florida, particularly in counties in the southwestern part of the state. The number of homes and businesses in the dark topped 2.5 million shortly after 5 a.m. EDT, according to poweroutage.us.

That region quickly felt Ian's impact after it made landfall.

"We have seen life-threatening storm surge, as was predicted," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday evening. "We've also seen major flooding in places like Collier County, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach."

DeSantis said the storm surge likely peaked at about 12 feet.

While it's still too early for officials to assess structural damage, flooding swept away cars and buildings, and downed power lines sparked fires in coastal towns. Several cities asked residents to conserve water as flooded water facilities struggled to keep up with demand.

The governor and other state officials warned Wednesday evening that as Ian moved inland, residents in central and northeast Florida could see tornadoes, high winds and flash flooding. Several counties near Jacksonville and St. Augustine were under full or partial evacuation orders.

 

Downed power lines' sparks serve as reminders of danger they pose

Power lines brought down by Hurricane Ian sparked dramatically early Thursday, prompting the Winter Haven Fire Department to say on Facebook, "One of our fire trucks captured this just a few minutes ago while responding to a call. If anyone doubts the danger of this storm, this is just one..."

One of our fire trucks captured this just a few minutes ago while responding to a call. If anyone doubts the danger of this storm, this is just one incident. (BTW - a trampoline flew just in front of the truck just prior to this video).

Posted by Winter Haven Fire Department on Wednesday, September 28, 2022
By Brian Dakss
 

CBS Fort Myers affiliate being evacuated

The CBS affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida, WINK-TV, was being cleared out early Thursday, according to a tweet from a meteorologist at the station, Dylan Federico, who said, "212AM: Just woke up. We are being emergency evacuated from the WINK News building. I have no idea what's going on."

Fort Myers isn't far from where Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday.

But Wednesday night, he'd tweeted that, "The storm surge has peaked at WINK. Water has gone down about a foot, but the wind on the back side of this hurricane is unbelievably strong. We are safe in the 2nd floor."

He also said, "Fort Myers is pitch dark. Likely catastrophic failure of grid."

By Brian Dakss
 

Ian continuing its trek across Florida

The National Hurricane center in Miami says Ian, now barely a hurricane, will keep moving  "across central Florida this morning and emerge over the Atlantic later today."

Then, "Ian is forecast to turn northward" Friday and head for the northeastern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coasts.

The center warned that, "Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and urban flooding, with major to record flooding along rivers, will continue across central Florida. Widespread considerable flash, urban, and river flooding is expected across portions of northeast Florida, southeastern Georgia, and eastern South Carolina today through the weekend."

As of 2 a.m. EDT, Ian's core was some 55 miles south-southeast of Orlando and the same distance south-southwest of Cape Canaveral. It was moving northeast at 9 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. 

 

Ian hits Port Charlotte hospital hard

Hurricane Ian swamped a Florida hospital from both above and below, the storm surge flooding its lower level emergency room while fierce winds tore part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Dr. Birgit Bodine spent the night at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, anticipating the storm would make things busy, "but we didn't anticipate that the roof would blow off on the fourth floor," she said.

Water gushed down Wednesday from above onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital's sickest patients - some of them on ventilators - to other floors. Staff members resorted to towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients were forced into just two because of the damage.

Read more here

By The Associated Press
 

Jacksonville airport closed

Jacksonville International Airport tweeted late Wednesday night that it won't be operating on Thursday:

 

Ian downgraded to Category 1

At 11 p.m. ET, Hurricane Ian had maximum sustained wins of 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm. It made landfall earlier in the day as a major Category 4 storm. 

But the National Hurricane Center warned that life-threatening conditions were ongoing. "Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic" flooding was expected to continue throughout central Florida overnight. 

Storm surges were still a concern along the southwest Florida coastline. Life-threatening storm surges were also expected to impact the northeast Florida coast and the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Thursday and Saturday as the storm continues to push northeast into the Atlantic.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Watches and warnings in effect as of 11 p.m.

Watches and warnings in effect as of 11 p.m.:

A hurricane warning is in effect for:

  • Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
  • Sebastian Inlet to Flagler/Volusia County Line
  • A storm surge warning is in effect for...
  • Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
  • Tampa Bay
  • Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the South Santee River
  • St. Johns River

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

  • Indian Pass to the Anclote River
  • Boca Raton to Sebastian Inlet
  • Flagler/Volusia County Line to Surf City
  • Flamingo to Chokoloskee
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands

A storm surge watch is in effect for:

  • North of South Santee River to Little River Inlet

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

  • Flagler/Volusia County Line to the South Santee River

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:

  • North of Surf City to Cape Lookout
By Jordan Freiman
 

More than 2 million Florida residents without power as Hurricane Ian moves inland

The total number of those in Florida without power as of 10 p.m. ET to more than 2 million people, according to poweroutage.us. 

Southwest Florida has so far borne the brunt of the impact. Nearly every resident in several counties, including DeSoto, Charlotte and Lee, is without power as of Wednesday evening. At least half of all residents in several other neighboring counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Collier, Highlands and Glades, are without power, according to poweroutage.us. 

Read more here. 

By Li Cohen
 

Hurricane hunter pilot discusses flights to track Ian

While most people try to flee from hurricanes, Captain Jason Mansour, who pilots a Gulfstream-IV Hurricane Hunter for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flies into them. He spoke with CBS News' John Dickerson on "Prime Time" to discuss why.

"The Hurricane hunters go into harm's way to obtain the best possible information so the best possible forecast can be made," Mansour explained. 

Hurricane hunter pilot discusses his mission flying into Hurricane Ian 04:03
 

Hurricane position and strength as of 9 p.m. ET

Hurricane Ian was located about 40 miles northeast of Punta Gorda, Florida, and roughly 85 miles south-southwest of Orlando. It was traveling north-northeast at 8 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, making it a Category 2 storm.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Tampa police chief gives update as Hurricane Ian slams Florida

Tampa police chief gives update as Hurricane Ian slams Florida 05:08
 

Warnings and watches in effect as of 8 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center said the following warnings and watches were in effect as of 8 p.m ET:

A hurricane warning is in effect for:
-Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
-Sebastian Inlet to Flagler/Volusia County Line

A storm surge warning is in effect for:
-Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
-Tampa Bay
-Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the South Santee River
-St. Johns River

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
-Indian Pass to the Anclote River
-Flamingo to Sebastian Inlet
-Flagler/Volusia County Line to Surf City
-Flamingo to Chokoloskee
-Lake Okeechobee
-Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands

A storm surge watch is in effect for:
-North of South Santee River to Little River Inlet
-Florida Bay

A hurricane watch is in effect for:
-Flagler/Volusia County Line to the South Santee River
-Lake Okeechobee

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
-North of Surf City to Cape Lookout

By Sophie Reardon
 

Daytona Beach Shores, on Florida's east coast, closes bridges due to high winds

The department of public safety in Daytona Beach Shores said Wednesday night that all bridges crossing the Halifax River will close "due to wind speeds."

It added that the bridges will be inspected by the state's department of transportation – and reopen if they are determined to be structurally safe.

"Stay indoors and stay safe everyone!" the department tweeted.

Portions of northeastern Florida, including Daytona, are likely to see flooding and high winds as Hurricane Ian makes its way across the peninsula. The greater Volusia County is currently under a hurricane warning, flood watch and tornado watch.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Sarasota mayor on the impact of Hurricane Ian: "It's definitely accelerating"

Sarasota mayor on the impact of Hurricane Ian: "It's definitely accelerating" 04:39
 

Biden to visit FEMA headquarters Thursday

As Hurricane Ian continues to batter Florida, the White House said President Biden would visit FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. While there, he will receive a "briefing on impacts from Hurricane Ian and ongoing Federal response efforts."

The president will then deliver remarks about the hurricane.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Virginia to enter state of emergency Friday

Beginning on Friday, Virginia will be under a state of emergency, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday. The declaration is in response to Hurricane Ian, which is expected to impact parts of the state later this week.

"We want to ensure that our communities have the resources needed to respond to and recover from any potential effects from the storm," the governor wrote in a statement. "While we recognize that the storm track is still uncertain, I nevertheless encourage all Virginians and visitors to make a plan, have supplies on hand, and follow official sources for the latest forecast information and guidance."

Similar states of emergency were declared in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Residents take shelter at Tampa schools

Evacuating her Florida home as Hurricane Ian approached was an easy decision for Anita Glover, who is taking shelter at a Tampa high school with her 2-month-old son Jayven.

Glover says she came to the shelter because she was worried about her young son.

"My main focus was getting him up to safety," she said. "They need electricity, you got to bathe them, you got to feed them. I did the right thing coming to a shelter. I came yesterday."

Hundreds of people are riding out the storm at the shelter, including a family of 15. The family said they decided to take shelter at the school because their house has a lot of trees and is in an area that could flood.

An elementary school is also sheltering residents, turning classrooms into bedrooms.

There, Juan Lopez, whose day job is in sales and marketing for the Tampa Convention Center, is working as a shelter supervisor.

"We're providing all guests with space, a place for them to rest and be outside of the elements, as well as three meals a day," Lopez said. "We're also here just to help provide support, keep everyone calm."

Inside a shelter offering refuge from Hurricane Ian 01:52
By Norah O'Donnell
 

Fort Myers police issue citywide curfew after hurricane

The entire city of Fort Myers is under a curfew to "protect and safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of residents, visitors, and first responders," police said.

It goes into effect Wednesday at 6 p.m. and lasts until Friday at 6 p.m.

Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, announced later Wednesday evening that it is also issuing a curfew until further notice. Those included are "unincorporated Lee County and all cities with the exception of Estero at this time," the county said on its Facebook page.

By Sophie Reardon
 

DeSantis warns that hurricane will continue to impact other parts of Florida

Although Hurricane Ian is moving through Florida's southwestern coastal towns that were initially impacted, the storm will continue to move through central and northeastern Florida before exiting.

Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Wednesday evening that wide swaths of the state will see damage, and residents across the state should be prepared to see its impacts. 

Hurricane-force winds will next hit central Florida, where residents are already experiencing flooding.

Then, the storm will move into the northeast. Several counties — Clay, Nassau, Flagler, St. John's, Putnam and Sumter — are already under full and partial evacuation orders, DeSantis said. Heavy flooding is expected there.

By Sophie Reardon
 

DeSantis says surge has been "the biggest issue," with water reaching 12 feet

During a Wednesday evening press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it is too early to assess the storm's damage so far, but that the biggest issue has been the surge. Authorities believe that it may have reached 12 feet, and is likely to have peaked in the southwestern portion of the state.

"We have seen life-threatening storm surge, as was predicted," DeSantis said. "We've also seen major flooding in places like Collier County, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach."

DeSantis said he believes Hurricane Ian was one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula — and may have even hit Category 5 strength when it made landfall earlier Wednesday.

As Ian exits southwestern Florida, DeSantis said crews are ready to move in and help. The state has 100 portable cellphone towers ready, as well as 42,000 linemen to help with power outages, the governor said. Additionally, other local and state rescue teams will be deployed to help people.

Although local 911 call centers were down, calls were being rerouted elsewhere.

The governor warned people to stay away from flood waters, downed power lines and responding emergency crews. He also said the misuse of a generator can be deadly.

Florida's Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie warned people of other hazards. He told people not to get into their cars or boats or to go outside at all if winds seem to die down — as this would likely means people are in the eye of the hurricane.

Guthrie also warned residents in central Florida about potential tornadoes.

Guthrie said over 200 shelters are open, and more than 10,000 responders statewide are at the ready. So far, officials have received 1,100 resource requests, and 900 have been fulfilled. 

By Sophie Reardon
 

Naples Fire Department shares video of water rising up past doors of firetrucks, ambulances

In a Facebook Live video, the Naples Fire-Rescue Department showed viewers the scene at their local fire station as Hurricane Ian made landfall nearby. 

The inside of the station was completely flooded, with fire officials trekking through what appeared to be several feet of water. 

A firetruck and an ambulance parked inside of the garage were flooded, as were trucks outside of the station's garage doors. Although fire officials were able to open the vehicles' doors and climb in, they were completely flooded inside.

Posted by Naples Fire-Rescue Department on Wednesday, September 28, 2022
By Sophie Reardon
 

Warnings and watches in effect as of 5 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center said the following warnings and watches were in effect as of 5 p.m ET:

A hurricane warning is in effect for:
-Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
-Sebastian Inlet to Flagler/Volusia County Line

A storm surge warning is in effect for:
-Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
-Tampa Bay
-Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the South Santee River
-St. Johns River

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
-Indian Pass to the Anclote River
-Flamingo to Sebastian Inlet
-Flagler/Volusia County Line to Surf City
-Flamingo to Chokoloskee
-Lake Okeechobee
-Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands

A storm surge watch is in effect for:
-North of South Santee River to Little River Inlet
-Florida Bay

A hurricane watch is in effect for:
-Flagler/Volusia County Line to the South Santee River
-Lake Okeechobee

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
-North of Surf City to Cape Lookout

By Sophie Reardon
 

DeSantis asks Biden to approve major disaster declaration, FEMA cost share

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested that President Biden approve a major disaster declaration for all of the state's 67 counties and "for all categories and all types of assistance."

"If granted, a Major Disaster Declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals, as well as funds for both emergency and permanent work and public infrastructure," the governor's office said in a statement.

DeSantis also asked that the Federal Management Agency be able to provide 100% federal cost share "for debris removal and emergency protective measures" for 60 days.

By Sophie Reardon
 

South Carolina and North Carolina governors declare states of emergency

In preparation for potential impacts of Hurricane Ian, Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina and activated its emergency operation plans.

"It's still too early to know exactly how Hurricane Ian will affect South Carolina, but preparations at the state level are well underway, and this declaration of emergency is another step in that process," McMaster said in a statement. "We do know we'll see a lot of rain and significant storm surge on our coastline over the coming days – now is the time for each South Carolina to make plans for every contingency and be prepared."

Gov. Roy Cooper also declared a state of emergency in North Carolina. 

"A State of Emergency is needed so farmers and those preparing for the storm can quickly get ready for the heavy rain that is likely to fall," he tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

North Carolina is anticipating heavy rain and possible flooding and tornadoes on Friday and Saturday, according to the governor's office. Cooper warned residents to stay informed on weather conditions. 

The governor also activated 80 members of the state's National Guard.

By Sophie Reardon
 

What is storm surge, and what contributes to the deadly hurricane hazard?

One of the most dangerous and deadly hazards of a hurricane is the storm surge. As Hurricane Ian hits Florida's west coast, FEMA warned that it's expected to cause "life-threatening storm surge and widespread flooding."

A storm surge is "an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm," according to the National Hurricane Center. As the storm moves toward the coast, water is pushed to the shore and "piles up," creating the surge. 

If a storm surge happens at the same time as high tide, water levels will be even higher. The combination of storm surge and tide is known as storm tide. 

Read more here

By Nicole Brown Chau
 

Manatee County residents asked to stop using water

Manatee County officials issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon asking residents to limit toilet flushing, showering and other household chores that involve water. The request was made as "numerous lift stations are without power," they tweeted, adding that they hope to resolve the issue when the storm subsides. 

More than 1 million households are without power across the state, with Manatee County alone having more than 66,000 power outages reported, according to poweroutage.us.  

By Li Cohen
 

3 people rescued, 20 missing after migrant boat sinks during storm, U.S. official says

A boat carrying migrants sank and left 23 people missing as Hurricane Ian lashed the Florida coast on Wednesday, U.S. Border Patrol said Wednesday. Four people on the boat were able to swim to shore, and three have since been rescued, officials said.

"U.S. Border Patrol agents... responded to a migrant landing in Stock Island, Florida," Miami Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar said on Twitter. "Four Cuban migrants swam to shore after their vessel sank due to inclement weather."

The U.S. Coast Guard retweeted Slosar's tweet, adding that it too is searching for the missing.

Read more here.

 

Wastewater treatment plant in Bradenton nearly overflowing, city says

A wastewater treatment plant in Bradenton is full and "in danger of overflowing,"according to the city's Facebook page.

The city asked all of its residents to "PLEASE CONSERVE WATER" by refraining from washing dishes or laundry, flushing the toilet only when necessary, and limiting showering.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Water receded out of Tampa Bay during Hurricane Ian

As Hurricane Ian made its way toward Florida on Wednesday, it appeared water had receded from Tampa Bay, as if the body of water had been drained and dried out. The phenomenon, called a blowout tide or a reverse storm surge, is an indicator that a hurricane is on its way. 

A blowout tide often occurs during low tide, when strong winds blowing directly off shore push the water out, exposing the bottom of the body of water, according to The Weather Channel. 

Walking on the newly exposed shore during blowout tide could be dangerous because the winds could rapidly change, and the tide could come back. 

Read more here.

By Caitlin O'Kane
 

Warning and watches in effect as of 2 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center said the following warnings and watches were in effect as of 2 p.m ET:

A hurricane warning is in effect for:

-Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
-Sebastian Inlet to Flagler/Volusia County Line

A storm surge warning is in effect for:

-Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
-Tampa Bay
-Lower Florida Keys from Big Pine Key westward to Key West
-Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the South Santee River
-St. Johns River

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

-Indian Pass to the Anclote River
-All of the Florida Keys
-Flamingo to Sebastian Inlet
-Flagler/Volusia County Line to Little River Inlet
-Flamingo to Chokoloskee
-Lake Okeechobee
-Florida Bay
-Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands

A storm surge watch is in effect for:

-Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to east of Big
Pine Key
-Florida Bay

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

-Flagler/Volusia County Line to the South Santee River
-Lake Okeechobee

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

DeSantis to submit disaster declaration covering all Florida counties

Hurricane Ian continued to approach the southwestern coast of Florida on Wednesday afternoon with 155 mph winds. As Gov. Ron DeSantis noted at a news conference in Tallahassee, that number is "just shy" of the 157 mph threshold that constitutes a Category 5 hurricane, which, he reiterated, "is incredibly dangerous."

"If you are still in southwest Florida, just stay inside," the governor added. He said the sheriff in Charlotte County, one of the areas where Ian is expected to make landfall, told him earlier that some people had evacuated, while others had not.

In preparation for debris cleanup and other relief operations that will likely be necessary across the state after the hurricane passes, DeSantis said that he is going to submit a major disaster declaration for all Florida counties. The declaration will request that the federal government reimburse 100% of upfront costs to the state for 60 days, to "ensure that we can quickly recover and move forward."

Simone Marstiller, secretary of Florida's agency for health care administration, said more than 7,000 patients and residents have so far been evacuated from 150 care facilities statewide. The agency has also activated Floria's emergency patient lookup system, a database that will allow special needs shelters in impacted areas to share records and other identifying information that could help locate "missing or displaced" patients after the storm.

By Emily Mae Czachor
 

Hurricane Ian knocks out power to half a million Floridians within its first hours

Prior to Ian making landfall on Wednesday, the storm was already unleashing its wrath on Florida's power grids. 

Before 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 640,000 Floridians had their power knocked out, according to tracking on poweroutage.us. Southwest Florida has so far bore the brunt of the impact, with Lee County — home to Fort Myers — reporting more than 226,000 outages, affecting nearly 50% of its tracked customers. 

Neighboring Collier County had more than 99,000 outages reported at the same time. 

Read more here.

By Li Cohen
 

Traffic cameras show massive flooding in streets of Florida island

Traffic cameras streaming video footage from Sanibel, an island just off Florida's west coast, showed massive flooding on the streets on Wednesday morning. The live stream had become unavailable by early Wednesday afternoon. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Satellite captures eye of Hurricane Ian as it approaches Florida

As Hurricane Ian neared Florida on Wednesday, the NOAA released a satellite video of the eye of the storm. At the time of the video, the storm was churning towards the U.S. coastline.

Read more here.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Local emergency services suspended as Ian intensifies

Several cities and counties in Florida have suspended emergency services as Hurricane Ian is approaching their areas. Services are usually suspended when winds exceed 40-45 mph.  

These are the areas with suspended services:

By Li Cohen
 

Power outages surge as Ian nears landfall

Power outages in Florida are starting to creep further north along the Gulf Coast. According to the latest tally by PowerOutage.us, more than 483,000 Florida customers are without power — more than double the number of outages reported just hours ago.

Most of those without power are confined to the southwest region of the state. Lee County has the most outages with more than 170,000 reports — more than 30% of the county's population.

So far, the bulk of the outages extend as far up as Hernando County on Florida's Gulf Coast, about an hour north of Tampa. East coast outages have also been reported, with nearly 19,000 in Miami-Dade alone.  

By Li Cohen
 

Generators can be deadly during hurricanes

Hurricane Ian knocked out power to thousands Wednesday, even before making landfall. With that disruption comes a need for generators, but officials are warning people to take extra precautions to avoid a potentially fatal situation.  

National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said during a press briefing Wednesday morning that generators can be just as – if not more – dangerous than the effects of hurricanes.

"We've seen over the last couple of years in some of these big hurricanes, including Hurricane Laura that hit Louisiana, that there were more fatalities afterwards associated with generators than there was from similar storm surge of 16 to 18 feet," he said. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has reissued safety parameters around generators.

"Using a generator can kill you in minutes," the commission warned. "Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide. This is a poison you cannot see or smell." 

To prevent a sudden death amid the storm, the commission said that generators should never be used inside a home or garage, even if windows and doors are open. The devices should only be used outside the home, 20 feet away from windows, doors and vents. The exhaust from the generator should also be pointed away from the home. They also recommend that people who are using generators make sure that their carbon monoxide alarms are working.

Read more here.

By Li Cohen
 

Manatee County is "locked down"

Manatee County, one of many areas on Florida's Gulf Coast expected to be hard-hit by Hurricane Ian's near-Category 5 force on Wednesday, is officially "locked down," the government tweeted.

All shelters in the county and the Emergency Operations Center shut their doors as the storm approached, and first responders are "locking down."

"Emergency response will not be available until the storm subsides," the government said.

County Administrator Scott Hopes released a video statement telling residents to "shelter-in-place" and that it is "no longer safe to travel."

More than 120,000 evacuations were ordered on Tuesday, but Hopes said there are only about 3,000 people in county shelters.

"Hopefully you evacuated to a friend's house or another safe location in Florida or in Manatee County because we are about to feel the brunt of a near Category 5 hurricane in our area."

The county is expecting "exceptional rainfall" of up to 13 inches over the next 24 hours – an amount that will flood bodies of water, neighborhoods and storm drains, Hopes said.

"As the storm leaves us, the winds are going to shift and drive all that water from the Gulf into the Bay as well as our rivers."

Roughly 30,000 people are already without power, according to Hopes and an ongoing tally by PowerOutage.us, but Hopes said this was "only the beginning." 

By Li Cohen
 

Only 5 hurricanes that have made landfall in U.S. have been Category 5

Hurricane Ian is set to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday — and emergency management directors in southwest Florida are concerned it could reach a Category 5. Only five hurricanes that have made landfall in the U.S. have been labeled Category 5. 

Hurricane strength is measured on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains, the scale ranges from Category 1 — which has 75 to 95 mph winds and can cause damage to home exteriors, trees and power lines — all the way up to a "catastrophic" Category 5.

A Category 5 hurricane has winds of 157 mph or higher. Whereas less-strong hurricanes could tear shingles or pieces off of roofs, a Category 5 has a high risk of completely destroying homes, with total roof failure and wall collapse. 

Read more here.

By Caitlin O'Kane
 

Household hacks to know as Ian hits Florida

There's a long list Floridians and others in Ian's path are likely checking off - from boarding up windows to lining up sandbags to divert water from their homes. But there's always more than can be done if you have the time (or necessary help).

As the storm fast approaches, here are some other last-minute things you can do to prepare:

  • Fill your bathtub full with water. This way, you'll have extra water in case you need it to flush toilets, clean dishes, use to wash yourself off or more. The National Weather Service adds that this can also be used as drinking water if you need it - just put line the tub with a bag to ensure your water stays fresh.
  • Fill a kiddie pool with sod for a makeshift pet potty. During high winds and heavy rain, you'll want to keep your pets inside. To keep them warm and safe, try creating your own potty area that will allow your dog to relieve itself if necessary. Every Dog Has Its Day, a dog training facility in Orlando, Florida, previously suggested putting sod in a kiddie pool and storing it in your garage (barring any flooding) so you'll have "a safe place for your dogs to potty during the storm."
  • Make your own lantern with a water bottle and flashlight. If you lose power and are in need of some light, avoid using candles. Instead, utilize flashlights, phones and other items. Some campers suggest creating your own lantern by taping a flashlight underneath a water bottle or jug to help illuminate a room.
  • Use aluminum pans or other dishes to keep furniture out of water. If you have major flooding, then this trick won't be much help, but it can be helpful if several inches of water seep into your home. Place a dish pan or aluminum pans under the legs of furniture to help prevent severe water damage.

Read more here.

By Jennifer Earl
 

"Catastrophic" wind damage is beginning along Florida coast

"Catastrophic" wind damage is beginning along Florida's southwestern coast near where the storm is expected to make landfall, the National Weather Service said in its late-morning advisory, adding that "widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding" is expected in parts of central Florida.

"Considerable" flooding is also expected in southern and northern regions, and river flooding in central Florida could be prolonged, according to the advisory.

Forecasters warned that hurricane-force winds are expected to travel "well inland" near the core of the storm as it makes landfall along the coast, and "preparations to protect life and property should be urgently rushed to completion."

Storm surges measuring 12 to 18 feet above ground level could hit parts of the southwest Florida coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach, according to NWS. They will likely be accompanied by "destructive waves," the advisory said. Residents of those areas were urged to comply with evacuation orders. 

By Emily Mae Czachor
 

Ian's eyewall moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva islands

Hurricane Ian's eyewall was moving onshore midday Wednesday at Sanibel and Captiva islands, the National Hurricane Center said in a 12 p.m. update. It was moving north-northeast at 9 mph.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Public livestreams show impacts of Hurricane Ian

The already-destructive weather caused by Hurricane Ian, a major Category 4 storm, can be seen in real-time across Florida on dozens of public live streams.

A webcam in Port Tampa at the Tampa Marriott Water Street Hotel shows grey skies and empty roads as strong winds shake trees and splash rain at the camera's lens.

Another camera in Naples shows the dangerous conditions caused by the hurricane. Before noon, the sea was as high as the pier, as large and fast-moving waves crashed against it.

Collier County – where thousands of residents had their power knocked out earlier in the day – was seeing winds strong enough to shake a Florida Department of Transportation camera throughout its livestream

By Li Cohen
 

"It's going to be a tragic event," DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday morning Hurricane Ian will be "tragic" and have long-lasting effects, calling it a "major, major event."

"It's going to be a tragic event in many ways," he said at a news conference in Lake City. "And, we understand, this is not just a 48-hour ordeal. This is something that's going to be there for days and weeks and months and unfortunately in some circumstances even years."

The governor discussed Florida residents who have not heeded evacuations orders in various parts of the state, some of which are mandatory. 

"People who are in harm's way by choice, having hunkered down in their areas, we're praying for them," DeSantis said. "Obviously, there's going to be rescue efforts made as soon as it's safe to do so, but once the storm hits and passes, it is going to be a very hazardous environment still."

Emergency crews will be dispatched to hard-hit areas as necessary, but DeSantis noted that "they need to have a safe environment to work in, too." The governor said carrying out response and relief efforts in the wake of the hurricane is a priority that the state is prepared to manage.

"It's something that we are going to dig in on. We are going to be there. We are going to stand with the people who are most affected," he said. "So, we'll be standing there and we will marshal the resources that we need to be able to serve the people that are most affected by this."

By Emily Mae Czachor
 

Ian's eyewall is moving onshore, hurricane center says

Hurricane Ian's "extremely dangerous" eyewall is moving onshore, forecasters said late Wednesday morning, and the center of the storm is expected to reach land in the coming few hours.

"Ian is forecast to make landfall on the west coast of Florida as a catastrophic hurricane," the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. advisory. "Weakening is expected after landfall, but Ian could be near hurricane strength when it moves over the Florida East coast tomorrow, and when it approaches the northeastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts late Friday."

Winds are still at 155 mph. The storm is located about 45 miles west-northwest of Naples, Florida and about 50 miles south-southwest of Punta Gorda. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

"I wish this wasn't a forecast I had to deliver"

"I wish this wasn't a forecast I had to deliver," National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said Wednesday as federal officials gave a dire update on Hurricane Ian.

"This is going to be a storm that we talk about for many years to come," he said, adding that the majority of the state will be in Ian's "crosshairs," including inland areas.

Ian's winds are as strong as 155 mph and extend 35 miles beyond the eye of the storm.

"It's not just right there in the center. It's a bigger impact from all this," Graham said.

Ian will take 24 hours or so to move across the state after the eye of the storm reaches land, Graham said, setting up a dangerous situation for millions. Powerful winds and rain, on top of slow movement, could contribute to some places seeing up to 18 feet of storm surge and up to 2 feet of rain alone.

Even Florida's east coast is expected to see some storm surge and strong winds, he said, and tornadoes will continue to be a threat, mostly in the front right quadrant of the storm.

Gail McGovern, CEO of American Red Cross, said nearly 500 Red Cross responders are ready and shelter supplies are prepared for 60,000 people. By the end of the weekend, she anticipates more than 2,500 Red Cross responders will be deployed.

"To everyone in the path of the storm: Please, please, please follow the evacuation instructions from your elected officials and your local officials," McGovern said. "We know that for many of you, recovery from Hurricane Ian will likely be a very long road, and your American Red Cross will be there."

FEMA has staged 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water ahead of landfall. 300 ambulances - the same used to help the state during the COVID-19 pandemic - are ready to assist. 

By Li Cohen
 

Images show receding waters in Tampa, Venice

Images posted on social media show receding waters along Florida's southwest coast as the eye of Hurricane Ian barrels toward the state. 

Tampa police posted images showing what they called "a clear sign" that Ian is moving closer.

St. Petersburg also posted pictures on Twitter showing Ian drawing water from the Tampa Bay.

Similar images were coming out of the City of Venice, south of Tampa. The National Weather Service noted that the water will come back.  

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

"These are the last hours to prepare or escape"

Forecasters warned Wednesday morning that time was quickly running out for people to prepare for Ian, which was already lashing Florida's southwest coast with strong winds and rain.

"These are the last hours to prepare or escape before conditions worsen and #Ian arrives in south and central Florida," the National Weather Service tweeted Wednesday morning.

Catastrophic wind, storm-surge, rainfall and flooding are all forecast as the storm hits, it said.

"Tropical-Storm-Force winds already beginning to affect coast," the hurricane center tweeted. "Conditions will rapidly deteriorate & catastrophic wind damage is expected."

The director of the National Weather Service called it "heart-wrenching" to see a "devastating" hurricane like Ian bear down on Florida.

By Li Cohen and Sarah Lynch Baldwin  

 

Key West airport is closed

The international airport in Key West, Florida, is now closed until further notice. Hurricane Ian has disrupted air travel across the state, with Tampa and Orlando airports also suspending flights. 

Orlando International will halt commercial operations at 10:30 a.m. All operations were suspended at Tampa's airport on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Skyway Bridge is closed in both directions

The Skyway Bridge, which crosses Tampa Bay to connect St. Petersburg to Terra Ceia, is now entirely closed in both directions, according to officials.

The closure was planned as Hurricane Ian nears. Authorities warned drivers in the Tampa area to look out for downed power lines and cautioned against driving through standing water.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Ian knocks out power for more than 100,000 in Florida

Even before the eye of Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, the powerful near-Category 5 storm disrupted power for thousands in Florida, according to data collected by PowerOutage.us.

As of 8:30 a.m. ET, more than 104,000 customers in the state were without power. Most of the outages were reported in Collier County, with about 10% of its residents having their power disrupted.

Charlotte County, where Florida officials are anticipating Ian will make landfall later today, also experienced outages, as did Lee, DeSoto, Sarasota and Manatee counties. Most of those without power are supplied by Florida Power & Light.  

By Li Cohen
 

Ian could make landfall as Category 5, officials say

Hurricane Ian could make landfall on Florida's southwest coast as a Category 5 storm — the strongest storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, officials said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Strengthening of the storm overnight was "really, really significant," said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Emergency management directors in southwest Florida are preparing for — and expecting — a Category 5 hurricane, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"This is gonna be a nasty, nasty day — two days," said DeSantis.

Landfall is expected in Charlotte County and life-threatening impacts are expected. Power outages will occur, according to Guthrie, an over 30,000 linemen are "staged" from north-central Florida to Miami.

The storm is expected to leave the Florida peninsula no sooner than Thursday.  

By Li Cohen and Sarah Lynch Baldwin 

 

This is where forecasters expect the highest storm surges

Coastal areas around Ft. Myers, Florida were warned by the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday morning to brace for a storm surge from Hurricane Ian that could see water levels rise 12 to 16 feet above normal levels, if the peak surge coincides with high tide.

The next high tide in the region was expected at about 7 p.m. local time.

The area under the highest storm surge warning stretched from Englewood to Bonita Beach, which are roughly equidistant from Ft. Myers to the north and south, respectively. 

Other areas expected to see the highest storm surges, per the NHC's 7 a.m. Eastern update, include:

  • Middle of Longboat Key to Englewood... 6-10 ft
  • Bonita Beach to Chokoloskee...7-11 ft
  • Anclote River to Middle of Longboat Key, including Tampa Bay...4-6 ft
  • Chokoloskee to East Cape Sable...4-7 ft
By Tucker Reals
 

Here are the National Hurricane Center's latest severe weather warnings for Florida

National Hurricane Center summary of warnings in effect for Florida as of 7 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

  • Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
  • Dry Tortugas

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...

  • Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
  • Tampa Bay
  • Lower Florida Keys from Big Pine Key westward to Key West
  • Dry Tortugas
  • Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the St. Mary's River
  • St. Johns River

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

  • Indian Pass to the Anclote River
  • All of the Florida Keys
  • Flamingo to South Santee River
  • Flamingo to Chokoloskee
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Florida Bay
  • Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands
By Tucker Reals
 

Ian snarls air travel as many Florida airports halt operations

At least 1,902 U.S. flights were cancelled on Wednesday, according to FlightAware, with Hurricane Ian causing much of disruption.

Operations were on hold or set to be put on hold at a number of Florida's airports.

Orlando International Airport said it was not closing, but it was ceasing all commercial operations
from 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Tampa International, Ft. Myers and Sarasota Bradenton International airports all suspended all operations on Tuesday evening, and St. Pete-Clearwater airport took the same measure even earlier in the day.

Melbourne Orlando International Airport was to close from 2 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, and while Miami, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach's airports remained functional, some airlines operating out of the facilities were canceling flights and urging travelers to check directly with their airlines before setting off.

By Tucker Reals
 

Sustained windspeed increases to 155 mph

The National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Hunter aircraft had found the maximum sustained winds from Hurricane Ian had increased to near 155 mph early Wednesday morning. The storm remained a Category 4 hurricane, but it was very near the 157 mph threshold to be classified as a Category 5 – the most destructive type of storm.

The storm was located only about 65 miles west-southwest of Naples, Florida.

By Tucker Reals
 

Conditions "rapidly deteriorating along the southwest Florida coast"

The National Hurricane Center warned that conditions were "rapidly deteriorating along the southwest Florida coast" as Hurricane Ian barreled toward the state early Wednesday morning.

The Category 4 storm was centered only 75 miles west-southwest of Naples, Florida, steadily plodding to the north-northeast at about 10 mph.

Floridians evacuate, prepare for Hurricane Ian 01:58
By Tucker Reals
 

Much of south Florida put under tornado watch

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for much of south Florida early Wednesday morning as Hurricane Ian bore down on the state's southwest coast as a dangerous Category 4 storm. 

The watch was to remain in place until at least 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

By Tucker Reals
 

Hurricane Ian intensifies into "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm

The National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday that Hurricane Ian had strengthened into an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm as it approached Florida's southwest coast. U.S. Air Force hurricane hunter planes had registered sustained winds of 140 mph.

Ian was "expected to cause life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding in the florida peninsula," the center warned in a 5 a.m. Eastern advisory.

The storm was still tracking to the north-northeast at about 10 mph, and as of 5 a.m. its center was located only about 75 miles west-southwest of Naples, Florida.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect in Naples, Fort Meyers as Hurricane Ian nears 02:49
By Tucker Reals
 

Tropical-storm-force winds start lashing mainland Florida's coasts

Hurricane Ian started lashing Florida's southern coasts — on both sides of the peninsula — with tropical-storm-force winds early Wednesday morning. The National Hurricane Center said in a 3 a.m. Eastern update that a weather station near Biscayne Bay, on the southeast coast, had registered gusts over 60 mph, while another station near Sanibel Island in the west clocked wind speeds near 50 mph.  

The Category 3 hurricane was still packing sustained winds of 120 mph as it churned north-northeast toward Florida's southern west coast, with the eye located about 90 miles southwest of the city of Naples at 3 a.m. 

035341-5day-cone-with-line-and-wind.png
A map provided by the National Hurricane Center shows the predicted path of Hurricane Ian as of 2 a.m. Eastern on September 28, 2022. NOAA/National Weather Service
By Tucker Reals
 

"Rapid intensification" seen with Ian is a rising trend

As Hurricane Ian roared towards Florida, it experienced a phenomenon known as rapid intensification — getting very strong, very fast. Scientists say the process of hurricanes rapidly intensifying is becoming more frequent, and is connected to the impact of human-caused climate change.

Rapid intensification is defined by meteorologists as increase in the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 30 knots (about 35 mph) in a 24 hour period, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.  

Click here to learn more about rapid intensification, how it's been a factor with Hurricane Ian, and the role climate change plays in the increase of the phenomenon.

By Gina Martinez
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