Hurricane Ian makes landfall as Category 4 storm in Florida
Hurricane Ian dumped torrential rains and whipped 150 mph winds as it roared ashore in southwest Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
The slow-moving storm officially made landfall around Cayo Costa at 3:05 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said. The barrier island is about 20 miles west of downtown Fort Myers.
The hardest-hit areas were expected to get nearly 2 feet of rain, while at least a foot was projected to fall throughout southwest, central and northeast Florida.
Ian kicked up massive storm surge along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Even before landfall, the water reached the upper levels of two-story homes in Fort Myers Beach.
Ian earned its terrifying Category 4 status with its winds, but the rain could be a bigger issue across much of Florida. The storm was moving slowly before it struck land, and then it slowed down even further, hovering over the Gulf Coast from Tampa to Naples and deluging the area with rain.
“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash, urban, and river flooding is expected across central Florida,” the National Hurricane Center said in an alert.
Around the time Ian made landfall, more than 800,000 customers in Florida didn’t have electricity, according to PowerOutage.us. That number was expected to rise as the storm continued its assault.
Hurricane-force winds caused damage from Tampa to Naples and reached farther inland as well.
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“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said early Wednesday. “This is going to be a rough stretch.”
But Florida isn’t the only state worried about Ian. The storm’s projected path would take it into eastern Georgia and South Carolina by the weekend. And while Ian will no longer be gaining strength over open water, the storm is still expected to dump buckets of rain on the region.
“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,” the NHC said.
In anticipation of the hurricane, President Biden directed the heads of federal agencies across the U.S. government to “surge all available resources” to Florida’s highest-risk regions.
More than 1,300 emergency personnel were sent to Florida in advance of the storm. They arrived before airports shuttered operations in Tampa, Orlando and down the Gulf Coast in preparation for the carnage.
“This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come,” warned Ken Graham, the director of the National Weather Service. “It’s a dangerous, life-threatening storm surge.”
With News Wire Services