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AccuWeather forecasters on Thursday morning revised their latest forecast on Tropical Storm Ian to show the storm becoming a Category 1 hurricane over the open Atlantic. Once the storm moves over the warm ocean waters, Ian is expected to regain enough strength to maintain hurricane status until its projected landfall in South Carolina on Friday. That would be Ian’s second U.S. landfall and third overall after the storm slammed into Cuba on Tuesday. As of 11 a.m. EDT, Ian was located about 25 miles north-northeast Canaveral, Florida, and 285 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. The National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning has been issued for the entire coast of South Carolina.
Over a dozen rivers in Florida along Hurricane Ian's track have exceeded major flood stage or are forecast to, and several have preliminarily broken records, according to NOAA river gauges. The Horse Creek near Arcadia has shattered its old record of 18.0 feet, cresting at 21.24 feet overnight. That record high reading was set in 2003, but records at this station go back to 1951. According to NOAA, when the river is above 17.7 feet, flooding affects more than 100 homes. The Shingle Creek at Campbell broke its record stage of 62.3 feet set during Hurricane Irma in 2017 early Thursday morning, and the Peace River at Zolfo Springs was still rising after it broke its record of 25 feet set in 1933.
The Horse Creek near Arcadia has shattered its old record of 18.0 feet, cresting at 21.24 feet overnight.
Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday morning: "Right now if you look in central Florida, you're looking at potential major flooding and orange and Seminole counties, St. John's River all the way up potentially into northeast Florida in Jacksonville. The amount of water that's been rising and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flood."
Orlando is experiencing one of its wettest months in years due to the intense downpours that Ian unleashed across Florida. Over the course of 72 hours, a weather station in Orlando measured 16.77 inches of rain, nearly three times the typical September rainfall of 6.37 inches. Preliminary weather data from Orlando International Airport shows that the monthly rainfall total is at 22.45 inches, which would make this September the wettest month in city history. The current monthly rainfall record is 19.10, which was set back in October of 1915. One of the highest rainfall totals in Florida has been 18.91 inches in North Port, located near Florida’s Gulf Coast, about 35 miles northwest of Fort Myers and about 30 miles north of where Ian made landfall on Wednesday.
Search and rescue operations ramped up Thursday morning across Florida as Ian continued to dump heavy rainfall across the Sunshine State. AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline captured footage of rescues taking place in the Orlovista neighborhood in Orlando Thursday morning.
The United States Coast Guard shared a video to Twitter of ongoing search and rescue efforts in the Key West area. Officials were also surveying damaged properties in the wake of Ian.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered his thanks Thursday morning for the first responders who were actively looking to rescue those who remain stranded and in harm’s way. “I just want to thank the urban search and rescue teams, the National Guard, the state resources and the Coast Guard for not waiting around but going in there and understanding that time is of the essence and we got a lot of people we need to help,” he said.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Thursday morning that a 72-year-old man died of an apparent drowning during the overnight hours Thursday. The victim went outside his home in the city of Deltona to drain his pool during Ian’s approach, the sheriff’s office said, Deltona is located roughly 25 miles northeast of Orlando. “Deputies responded to a home on Poinciana Lane near Lake Bethel around 1 a.m. after the victim’s wife reported he disappeared after heading outside. While searching for him, deputies found his flashlight, then spotted the victim unresponsive in a canal behind the home,” officials said in a statement. “The initial investigation indicates the victim was using a hose to drain the pool down a hill and into a 30-foot-wide canal, where a steep decline into the water was extremely soft and slippery due to the heavy rain.” After the victim was pulled from the canal he was given CPR when paramedics arrived. He was then transported to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
The wrath of Ian has left entire towns in the dark across Florida. As of 8:45 a.m. EDT Thursday, more than 2.6 million electric customers were without power across the state, according to PowerOutage.us. The bulk of the outages was in the area where Ian made landfall, with virtually every resident and business in Hardee County in the dark.
Internet outages and disruptions to cell phone service are also plaguing residents who are cut off from the rest of Florida due to Ian. “Portable towers are on the way for cell service,” the Collier County sheriff’s office said. “Chances are your loved ones do not have [the] ability to contact you.” Utility crews will begin to work to restore power on Thursday as floodwaters recede and Ian moves away from Florida.
Hurricane Ian brought storm surge and torrential rain to Marco Island, which is just southwest of Naples, on Wednesday, flooding multiple roadways across the island. But, by early Thursday morning, the floodwaters had receded, Marco Island Police Department said in an update. Utilities and traffic lights are still out and cell phone coverage is intermittent, the police department wrote.
Jason Beal, a Marco Island resident, shared photos of the flooding on social media on Wednesday. Among the photos, a river of water was pictured covering North Collier Boulevard, which is one of the main roads to get on and off the island. ”The water looked like a stream coming down the road when it came in,” Beal said to AccuWeather. “I think this will be less damage than Irma on Marco [Island].” Beal noted the differences between the two storms, stating Hurricane Irma brought extensive wind damage to the island, while Hurricane Ian was more like a flash flood.
Storm surge, torrential rain and high winds turned streets into rivers and knocked out power on Marco Island in southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022. (Jason Beal)
President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Florida early Thursday morning, allowing for federal aid to be used to help the recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The declaration was approved for nine of the hardest-hit counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House said in a press release. Other federal resources will be available across the entire state as millions work together to pick up the pieces following the historic storm.
A section of the Sanibel Causeway, the only bridge that leads to Sanibel Island, collapsed on Wednesday night in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The island is a barrier island located just south of where Ian made landfall on Wednesday and is home to around 6,500 people. It is unclear how many people rode out the storm on the island or how long it will take until repairs can be made. Officials are planning to evaluate the rest of the bridge to determine if other sections are at risk of collapse.
AccuWeather forecasters caution that Ian’s center will move across the Florida Peninsula and emerge over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday. When this occurs, Ian will drift off the coast of northeastern Florida for a period of time before moving inland and making a third landfall. Given Ian’s current track, the most likely timing for its third landfall is late Friday afternoon to early Friday evening. Forecasters have narrowed down landfall to be between Folly Beach and Edisto Beach, both of which are just south of Charleston, South Carolina.
Hurricane Ian joined some infamous company Wednesday, becoming the sixth hurricane designated as Category 4 or more to strike the Gulf Coast since 2017. The storm joins 2018’s Category 5 Hurricane Michael and 2017’s Category 4 Hurricane Irma as hurricanes that made landfall in Florida. Other notable hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast since 2017 include 2017’s Category 4 Hurricane Harvey (first landfall made in Texas), 2020’s Hurricane Laura (first landfall made in Louisiana) and 2021’s Hurricane Ida (first landfall made in Louisiana).
Heavy rain from Ian has fallen in many parts of Florida, including Orlando. Between 11 p.m. EDT Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday, 3.70 inches of rain fell. An additional 2.63 inches fell between 2 a.m. EDT and 3 a.m. Thursday. Since the rain began, an incredible 12.24 inches has been recorded at Orlando International Airport and the rain is still falling. The rain has been falling in sheets, with a peak wind gust of 60 mph recorded at the airport.
Florida continues to receive assistance from both state and federal partners amid the hazardous landfall of Hurricane Ian. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden made calls to the mayors of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sarasota, as well as the chair of Charlotte County. During the separate calls, Biden let the mayors know that “their communities have the full force of the federal government behind them” during the landfall, discussing topics such as support for elderly residents and other vulnerable parties. The state is also receiving support from New York, as Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she has deployed 11 members of the New York Army National Guard and two helicopters to assist with Ian response.
“We are grateful for the heroism of these New Yorkers who are answering the call of duty, as well as for the extraordinary efforts of all first responders currently working to provide aid and support to the people of Florida," Hochul said.
Massive flooding in Naples also inundated a fire station Wednesday afternoon, with firefighters rushing to save emergency equipment and gear. A video shows a fire station of the Naples Fire-Rescue Department flooded out, with firefighters grabbing equipment from a submerged fire truck and wading through the waters back inside the station. The situation in Naples has been dire throughout the afternoon, as hundreds of residents were reportedly trapped and calling for assistance. The city’s Gulf Shore Boulevard “looks like an ocean” as one reporter put it, with submerged cars pushed up against buildings by the floods.
Hurricane Ian sent severe flooding into the Naples Fire-Rescue building on Sept. 28, forcing firefighters to save what they could.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said that FEMA has established a search and rescue coordination group in Miami that includes Urban Search and Rescue teams, Coast Guard, Department of Defense, Department
of the Interior and local Florida rescue teams. Criswell briefed President Joe Biden and Florida mayors Tuesday on federal response efforts to Hurricane Ian.
With search and rescues ready to be made by sea, air and land, FEMA has also positioned supplies and personnel to strategic locations in Georgia, Florida and Alabama to “get help where it needs to be as soon as possible.” The organization has 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water staged in Alabama, ready to be distributed to storm-stricken areas.
Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida has already caused major damage to communities, and the recovery period will likely be costly. To help community response and recovery, the State of Florida has activated the Florida Disaster Fund. The fund distributes donations to service organizations that will aid individuals within disaster-stricken communities. Donations can be made online through the Volunteer Florida Foundation, with checks also acceptable form of payment.
Incredible rainfall and wind gust reports have continued to pour in Wednesday from the landfall of Hurricane Ian in Florida. On the east coast of Florida, the highest rainfall totals were reported by Mesonet stations in Delray Beach (9.97 inches), Boca Raton (9.75 inches) and Indiantown (9.6 inches), while the highest west coast totals were reported by Mesonet stations in Joshua (8.38 inches) and Balm (8.34 inches).
For wind gusts, the highest reported thus far was a 126 mph gust by a NOAA station in Captiva/Redfish Pass. Other top gusts were reported at Cape Coral Fire Department (125 mph), Punta Gorda Airport (124 mph), and Cape Coral EOC (122 mph).
Power outages brought on by Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida have approached the 2 million mark as of Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.US. As of 10:15 p.m. EDT, about 2 million customers in Florida were without power, with multiple counties over 90% without service. DeSoto County’s power has been nearly completely wiped out, as 99.5% of the population was without power. Charlotte County had a 98% outage with over 125,000 customers affected, while Lee County (93.5% outages) had over 440,000 customers cut off. Hardee County’s power was also 91% cut off as of Wednesday evening.
Storm chaser Mike Scantlin briefly went outside into the chaos in Punta Gorda Wednesday afternoon, reporting live from right inside of the eyewall of Hurricane Ian. Scantlin stated that he was dealing with sustained winds in the triple digits, and that parts of a nearby hotel have been ripped off, such as an awning. “You see a lot of the palm trees just leaning over, this is insane,” Scantlin said. “Incredibly powerful wind.”
Another motel in Punta Gorda had its roof ripped off in the middle of the storm, with the owner trying to remove palm tree debris from the parking lot while in the calm of Ian’s eye. A wind gust report of 124 mph was recorded earlier Wednesday at Punta Gorda Airport.
Storm chaser Mike Scantlin was in Punta Gorda on Sept. 28 as winds ripped parts of a hotel off.
By 9 p.m. Wednesday, Hurricane Ian had lost further wind intensity, dropping the storm to a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The 105 mph winds no longer make Ian a major hurricane, although the severity of the storm can still produce extremely dangerous winds, causing extensive damage.
A station at the Punta Gorda Airport measured a wind gust of 109 mph just before 8 p.m. The hurricane was moving northeast at 8 mph and the center of the storm was about 85 miles southwest of Orlando, Florida, according to the NHC.
Ian had two hours earlier been reduced to a Category 3 hurricane.
Lee County Utilities issued a system-wide boil water notice due to impacts from Hurricane Ian. The Category 4 hurricane made its first U.S. landfall in the county Wednesday afternoon, bringing towering storm surge and fierce winds. Amid the chaos, the city of Fort Myers, located in Lee County, Florida, even issued an emergency citywide curfew. Officials in Pasco County, just north of Tampa, also ordered a boil advisory for parts of that county.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, residents under a boil water notice are advised to use bottled water, or boil tap water when bottled water is not available, if they are planning to use it for:
preparing food, drinks or ice
hygiene, including brushing teeth and bathing
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis updated residents on the devastation Hurricane Ian has wrought across his state, noting that Ian will likely go down as one of the largest storms to ever hit the Sunshine State. “It’s going to rank as one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida Peninsula,” DeSantis said of the storm, comparing Ian to the likes of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and 2018’s Hurricane Michael. “The fact is, there’s going to be damage throughout the entire state.”
DeSantis also took time to thank the 26 states that have sent resources in support of Ian recovery, such as Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, New York and Colorado. The governor also pointed to the Florida Disaster Fund as a way to help the recovery for those in need.
Gov. Ron DeSantis compared Ian to the likes of Andrew and Michael in an address to the public on Sept. 28.
Hurricane Ian has inundated Charlotte County, Florida, to the point local law enforcement suspended emergency response Wednesday evening due to the perilous conditions. Local winds from the storm reached sustained tropical storm speeds in the area, and officials have asked all residents to “shelter in place and stay off the roads until we are no longer experiencing hazardous conditions.”
Damage could be seen throughout Port Charlotte in Florida on Sept. 28 after Hurricane Ian tore through the area.
Calls to 911 will remain operational for the county, and calls will be triaged for response as soon as weather conditions permit. Officials shared tips for those sheltering in place, such as to lock all windows and exterior doors, and to fill bathtubs with water for cleaning and flushing toilets.
Staying with Hurricane Ian throughout the day, AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell was once again live from Punta Gorda Wednesday evening covering the backside of the storm. After being in the calm of the eye for a short while, Wadell was surprised by the “remarkably sustained” wind power during the backside’s pummeling of the area. “What’s really remarkable with this storm … the sustained winds really seem to be more powerful and more constant (on the backend),” Wadell said.
AccuWeather's Bill Wadell reported live from severe conditions in Punta Gorda as the backside of the storm pummeled the area.
He noted that the community of Punta Gorda has been holding up “pretty well,” with less structural damage than expected, although trees have been downed in the area. Due to low visibility levels, Wadell could not get a true sense of where water levels were at during high tide, and warned residents against going outdoors during the storm. “Unfortunately, every now and then we are seeing a few people trying to venture out in the storm, something you absolutely do not want to do," he said.
AccuWeather continued to bring coverage live from southwest Florida Wednesday, as AccuWeather National Reporter Kim Leoffler gave an update from Sarasota while wearing a helmet for protection from damage and debris. Leoffler counted at least three awnings from her viewpoint that have been blown off by heavy wind gusts, and noted that hazardous conditions are expected to continue throughout the evening.
"This has been going on for the last hour or two in this area,” Leoffler said. “We are north of the eyewall, we’re not even in the most intense part of the system, but clearly there are some significant impacts here.” Viewers have been praising Leoffler for her choice of protective wear, with one commenting that the reporter was “smart enough to wear a helmet” to protect from flying debris.
AccuWeather's Kim Leoffler reported live from Sarasota on the evening of Sept. 28 as Ian left behind damage throughout Florida.
Officials in Lee County updated residents Wednesday evening, providing a grim outlook for the impacts of Hurricane Ian on the area. “I am sad to tell you that while we don’t know the full extent of the damage to Lee County right now, we are beginning to get a sense that our community has been, in some respects, decimated,” County Manager Roger Desjarlais said.
Hurricane Ian left tremendous amounts of damage and power outages throughout Lee County, Florida, on Sept. 28.
The county has taken a tremendous hit in several areas, such as Fort Myers Beach, and utility systems in the county have had multiple line breaks. Public works crews have been unable to get out to clear debris as of the evening hours. A curfew has been enacted in the county as of 6 p.m. EDT, and a number of residents have called stating they are stranded in high waters. “If you have water coming in your home, call 911 and seek the highest spot possible,” Desjarlais said. The county manager also noted that the rescue effort will be “complex” and will take time to execute. As of Wednesday evening, 14 shelters are open across the county, with 4,000 people taking refuge.
After slamming into Florida’s west coast Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian began to lose wind intensity as it trudged inland. By 7 p.m., the hurricane was packing maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane. However, while the winds aren’t as intense as they were earlier Wednesday, the storm is still considered a major hurricane. A University of Florida Coastal Monitoring Program wind tower reported sustained winds of 64 mph with a wind gust of 104 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Near Port Charlotte, a private weather station reported a sustained wind of 115 mph with a wind gust of 132 mph as Ian made landfall over the mainland. By Wednesday afternoon, Ian was within 100 miles of Orlando.
Damage could be seen throughout Port Charlotte in Florida on Sept. 28 after Hurricane Ian tore through the area.
Hurricane Ian sent shockwaves throughout the airline industry Wednesday as more than 2,100 flights into, out of, or within the U.S. were canceled, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks the airline industry. Not surprisingly, nearly half of those flights were traveling into, between or out of airports in Florida. Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale international airports were the top four airports in the country for flight cancellations on Wednesday. All told, 962 flights into and out of Florida were canceled and a similar story was already underway for Thursday, according to FlightAware data. As of early evening, more than 1,800 U.S. flights had already been canceled on Thursday, with the international airports in Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville leading the way.
Meanwhile, power outages across Florida continued to mount as nearly 1.5 million customers were without power as of Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.US.
Massive flooding in Naples also inundated a fire station Wednesday afternoon, with firefighters rushing to save emergency equipment and gear. A video shows a fire station of the Naples Fire-Rescue Department flooded out, with firefighters grabbing equipment from a submerged fire truck and wading through the waters back inside the station. The situation in Naples has been dire throughout the afternoon,as hundreds of residents were reportedly trapped and calling for assistance. The city’s Gulf Shore Boulevard “looks like an ocean” as one reporter put it, with submerged cars pushed up against buildings by the floods.
As Hurricane Ian roared inland, it delivered intense winds gusting over 100 mph across several locations and contributed to more than 1 million customers across Florida losing electricity. The Punta Gorda Airport reported a gust of 124 mph around 4 p.m. EDT, according to the National Hurricane Center. Cape Coral, Naples, Sanibel and Redfish Pass also recorded gusts of or greater than 100 mph.
While Hurricane Ian was slamming southwestern Florida Wednesday afternoon, the state’s neighbors to the north were making their own preparations for the storm. On Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency for their respective states, with Cooper stating that the order was needed “so farmers and those preparing for the storm can quickly get ready for the heavy rain that is likely to fall.” AccuWeather forecasters placed the eye path of the storm as hitting Georgia Friday morning, followed by Ian moving through the Carolinas over the weekend.
Category 4 winds from Hurricane Ian have taken a toll on local structures in southwestern Florida, with video showing a roof that was ripped off a home in Port Charlotte, just north of Fort Myers. The surrounding streets became a flood zone, with winds pelting rain across front yards. Wind gusts have been intense in the area, as nearby Punta Gorda Airport recorded a gust of 124 mph Wednesday afternoon.
Images of severe flooding and wind damage continued emerging Wednesday in the hours following Ian's landfall and with power outages mounting throughout the day, the economic damages caused by the storm will be immense, AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers said -- perhaps on par with some of the worst hurricane damage in U.S. history. According to Myers, the total losses caused by Hurricane Ian could approach $120 billion in the U.S.
Using NOAA Doppler radar and data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) pinned Hurricane Ian’s first landfall to Cayo Costa, Florida, at 3:05 p.m. EDT Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Roughly half an hour later, the storm made its mainland landfall just south of Punta Gorda, Florida, near Pirate Harbor. While the hurricane lost some wind intensity, its maximum sustained winds at the mainland landfall were clocked at 145 mph, which is still Category 4 strength.
An extraordinary amount of lightning surrounds the eye of Hurricane Ian as it is about to make landfall on North Captiva Island off the southwest coast of Florida Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (CIRA/NOAA/NESDIS)
AccuWeather forecasters called Ian’s first U.S. landfall near North Captiva Island, Florida, around 2:24 p.m. EDT as the storm retained maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, relying on radar trends and other data available at that time. North Captiva Island is roughly seven miles south of Cayo Costa. “There are various methods to estimate landfall of a hurricane with a structure such as Ian, such as monitoring atmospheric pressure trends from weather observation locations, radar estimates and other procedures accounting for the small differences in location and timing,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter.
The perils brought on by Hurricane Ian have already been felt at Florida’s Fort Myers Beach. Video captured by Storyful shows the storm dumping torrential rainfall in the area, flooding streets and submerging cars. Storm surge has completely overrun some houses, with water rushing up to the roof of one residence. The area’s Diamondhead Beach Resort has had significant flooding as well, tossing debris around while submerging more vehicles. Residents were in harm’s way during Ian’s landfall, with one family requesting rescue from a windowless attic in the area.
Downed power lines in Naples and Tampa caused a string of fires throughout the cities as a wild rush of fire and smoke ignited into the air, with sparks continuously flying in at least one video captured Wednesday afternoon. Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Barbara Tripp said multiple fires were caused by lines knocked down by Hurricane Ian's strong winds. During an interview with AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor Tuesday, Duke Energy Florida spokesperson Anna Gibbs stated that residents should stay at least 30 feet away from downed power lines during a storm emergency, as the lines may still have electricity.
The intense video comes out as widespread power outages in Florida crossed the 1 million mark, according to PowerOutage.US. The breakdown by county includes: Lee County (71.84% outages), Charlotte (64.87% outages), Sarasota (63.58% outages) and Collier (57.86% outages), which all had more than half the population without power as of 4:30 p.m. EDT.
AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers warned that he expected power outages to rise to as high as 4 million to 5 million customers in the coming days.
The frightening strength of Hurricane Ian was on full display early Wednesday for NOAA's Hurricane Hunters, with one crew member commenting that the storm was a historically rough one. Nick Underwood, aboard NOAA’s Kermit aircraft, captured a shot from the eye of Ian at nighttime. Lightning in the skies illuminated the photo, indicating a strengthening storm. A later video posted by Underwood stated he “never felt such lateral motion” before, with bedding and other materials on Kermit being thrown around the plane’s galley.
“I have flown storms for the last six years,” Underwood stated. “The flight to Hurricane Ian on Kermit was the worst I’ve ever been on. I’ve never seen so much lightning in an eye.” The National Hurricane Center commended Underwood and the NOAA team for their efforts in a Wednesday afternoon update, saying that data from the team and Air Force Reserve was “absolutely critical this morning in diagnosing the rapid intensification of Ian.”
AccuWeather reporters took on the fury of Hurricane Ian head-first Wednesday, as AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell was live Wednesday afternoon in Punta Gorda, Florida. While trying to keep upright against wind gusts approaching 90 mph, Wadell explained the life-threatening conditions the area is facing, including metal roofing being ripped up and structural damage being reported. “We know this is just a taste of what’s to come for this community and so much of southwest Florida,” Wadell said.
What stuck out the most for Wadell was the uncertainty of the situation for some locals on whether to evacuate the area or not. He stated that officials don’t want any travelers on the roads, and that he isn’t seeing any traffic “for good reason.” “If you’re thinking you have time for a last-minute evacuation, authorities are really highly advising against that, you need to hunker down,” he said.
Images are emerging of the catastrophic damage in Fort Myers Beach after Ian’s landfall Wednesday afternoon on the west coast of Florida. Extreme storm surge, anywhere from 8 to 20 feet, has inundated the area.
With Hurricane Ian making landfall Wednesday afternoon in southern Florida, power outages have spiked throughout the state, jumping from 254,000 to over 644,000 in just two hours, according to PowerOutage.US. As of 2:24 p.m. EDT, over 220,000 outages were in Lee County alone, with nearly 48% of the county’s population without power. Other high concentrations of outages could be seen in Collier County (99,609 without power) and Sarasota County (78,801 without power). As power outages are increasing, so are internet outages, as Ian has knocked out telecom infrastructure, leaving places like Englewood (29% connectivity) and Cape Coral (35% connectivity) largely disconnected.
At around 2:24 p.m. EDT, AccuWeather forecasters said the eye of Hurricane Ian roared ashore on North Captiva Island, a barrier island just west of Fort Myers, Florida -- the first hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. this season. Maximum sustained winds were 150 mph, just shy of Category 5 status. For a storm to reach the highest classification of hurricane intensity, sustained winds must be at least 157 mph. A second landfall will be possible over the weekend after Ian traverses Florida and takes a turn toward Georgia and South Carolina.
Catastrophic Hurricane Ian is pummeling western Florida with relentless winds, devastating storm surge and driving rain. What wind sensors haven’t been knocked offline by the storm so far have relayed some stunning wind gusts. A wind gust of 126 mph was documented by NOAA Wednesday afternoon on the island of Captiva. Here’s a look at some of the other top wind gusts so far from Ian.
A stripe of clouds stretching over 3,000 miles was photographed by the GOES-EAST weather satellite around midday Wednesday, starting with the swirling clouds of Hurricane Ian and extending northward to the southern tip of Greenland. However, not all of the clouds were related to the intense hurricane near Florida.
An expansive cold front associated with a storm just south of Greenland was extending thousands of miles from the northern Atlantic, across Atlantic Canada and off the East Coast of the United States. The clouds on the southern flank of the front overlapped with the clouds on the northern edge of Ian, creating a non-stop stripe of clouds that could easily be seen from space.
The GOES-EAST weather satellite captured clouds stretching over the Atlantic Ocean overlapping with clouds associated with Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (NOAA)
AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell provided a live update from Punta Gorda, Florida, as powerful winds nearly ripped his hat off his head. “Winds are gusting about 70 mph here,” Wadell said. Punta Gorda Airport recorded a wind gust of 106 mph Wednesday afternoon. Wadell explained that even though water levels are low in the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor for now, that could change rapidly. “We are very concerned about the storm surge, 12 to 16 feet plus will be coming in as Hurricane Ian and that eye wall makes that approach to Southwest Florida,” Wadell said.
Devastating flooding is ongoing in parts of western Florida near where Ian is moving onshore. Video shared to Twitter showed Fort Myers to be inundated by Ian’s surge.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer captured footage of the surge overwhelming Pine Island, Florida, located just west of Fort Myers, shortly before noon EDT. Timmer declared on Twitter a short while later that he has since retreated to shelter because of Ian’s worsening conditions.
The outer extent of Hurricane Ian’s eyewall moved ashore at Florida’s Sanibel and Captiva Islands, 45 miles west-northwest of Naples, around noon Wednesday as a strong Category 4 hurricane. This part of the hurricane is where winds are typically the highest, and areas in its path will bear the brunt of Ian’s nearly Category 5 strength intensity. With maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, the monstrous storm was just 2 mph short of becoming a Category 5 hurricane. While the eyewall has started to trudge ashore at a slow 9 mph, the official landfall will occur when the center of the eye moves over land later Wednesday afternoon.
As Hurricane Ian continues to bear down on Florida, power outages in the Sunshine State have continued to increase. As of Wednesday afternoon, power outages in Florida stood at near 254,000, according to PowerOutage.US. The majority of the power outages are coming from Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties. While generators can be a huge advantage for people with a power outage in the aftermath of a hurricane, they could cause serious harm or kill unsuspecting families if used improperly.
Ian is closing in on its Florida landfall, with the eyewall of the storm starting to move over land. AccuWeather meteorologists say Ian will remain extremely dangerous even as it loses wind intensity as it moves over land. In fact, the storm’s impacts will affect a larger portion of the Southeast. “No matter how quickly Ian loses wind intensity after moving inland, tropical rainfall is forecast to impact more than half a dozen states into Saturday,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Courtney Travis said. After Ian drifts over the Florida Peninsula as a tropical storm, Ian is likely to move over the open Atlantic by Friday, where it could become a hurricane once again before it aims for the Georgia-South Carolina border, AccuWeather forecasters say.
“I’ve been doing this now for 30 years, what I am about to tell you, I’ve only communicated a handful of times,” AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said in an update Wednesday morning on the AccuWeather Network. “We are looking at a catastrophic, life-altering and just destructive hurricane.” Rayno compared the strength and size of Ian to Hurricane Michael in 2018, noting the difference in landfall locations between the two. “[Ian] is likely to be a top-five landfalling hurricane in the United States in reported history,” Rayno said.
Just over 2,000 flights were canceled within, into or out of the U.S. on Wednesday morning, according to FlightAware.com. The majority of the canceled flights have been from airports in Florida. Orlando International Airport has the most cancelations in the country, with more than 300 canceled flights being reported.
AccuWeather’s Bill Wadell reports that officials in Charlotte County, Florida, say first responders are no longer heading out to answer calls for help because conditions from Ian are too dangerous. Wadell reports that winds are picking up in the Punta Gorda area, but power is still on. Punta Gorda is located north of Fort Myers and to the southeast of Sarasota. The area is forecast to be inundated with a storm surge of up to 12-16 feet. Watch the video below to hear more from Wadell.
The threat of storm surge increases as Hurricane Ian closes in on the Florida Gulf Coast. AccuWeather's Bill Wadell was in Punta Gorda, which could see storm surge of 12 to 16 feet.
Winds are picking up along the western coast of the Florida Peninsula as the eye of Hurricane Ian approaches land. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an extreme wind warning in the area where Ian is projected to make landfall. The warning includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida. “THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND LIFE-THREATENING SITUATION,” the NWS said in the weather bulletin. “The safest place to be during a major landfalling hurricane is in a reinforced interior room away from windows. Remain in place through the passage of these life-threatening conditions.” Extreme wind warnings are rarely issued by the NWS and are reserved for non-tornado wind events when sustained winds over 115 mph are expected.
(NOAA GOES East)
The National Hurricane Center said during its 11 a.m. EDT update that the eyewall of Ian is beginning to move over Florida's western shoreline. The storm was about 45 miles west-northwest of Naples, Florida, and moving to the north-northeast at 9 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were still around 155 mph.
In 1953, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stopped using the phonetic alphabet naming system for Atlantic tropical cyclones and started using female names. In 1979, both female and male names were included in lists for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Since the naming began in 1953, 94 hurricane names have been retired. The WMO retires the name of a tropical cyclone if it becomes too deadly and/or destructive. The names that begin with the letter “I” most commonly get retired, according to an AccuWeather analysis. There have been a total of 13 retired I-named tropical cyclones. Some of the names included on this list are Ida in 2021, Irma in 2017, Irene in 2011, Iris in 2001 and Inez in 1966. The next frequently retired letter is “F,” which has had nine retired names.
Webcam images shared by the city of Venice, Florida, showed the tide rapidly receding near the city’s fishing pier Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service office in Tampa Bay warned the public that the water will come back later and urged people not to attempt to walk there or other locations with receding water. The images displayed a phenomenon known as a “blowout tide.” Unlike storm surge, which is caused by a storm’s winds pushing ocean water toward the land, a blowout tide happens when the storm’s winds blow from land toward the sea and cause the water to recede. Blowout tides also occurred along Florida’s western shore during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Naples reported a storm surge of 4.4 feet Wednesday morning while farther north along the coast, tide sensors indicated tides were around 2.5 feet below normal in Clearwater Beach and East Bay, Florida.
“I’m in Pine Island right now,” Extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer said in a live update Wednesday morning. Located just west of Fort Myers, conditions are deteriorating across Pine Island as Hurricane Ian creeps closer. Timmer was standing near the draw bridge that connects Pine Island to the mainland, and although the hurricane-force winds made it nearly impossible to hear what he was saying, the storm surge could be seen creeping up onto the land.
AccuWeather meteorologists are forecasting the surge to reach 15 to 20 feet in this area. Timmer also reported that as the winds picked up, numerous power flashes had been recorded across the area.
Storm chaser Reed Timmer reports dangerous storm surge ramping up in Pine Island, Florida, as conditions continue to deteriorate on Sept. 28.
There are several factors that contribute to the amount of surge a given storm produces at any given location. To name a few, the size of the storm, the storm’s intensity, the shape of the coastline, and the gravitational tide can all impact the storm surge. When the storm surge coincides with astronomical tide, it is called storm tide and it can result in extreme flooding in coastal areas. AccuWeather meteorologists are forecasting the surge to reach 15 to 20 feet above the normal tide level along the coast just west of Fort Myers. High tide times will occur around the same time Ian is forecast to make landfall. At Fort Myers Beach, high tide will occur at 2:45 p.m. EDT, which could result in a catastrophic storm tide surge.
The GOES-EAST weather satellite captured the first visible images of Hurricane Ian since late Tuesday, revealing an ominous sight with the eye of the storm just 60 miles off the Florida coast. AccuWeather projects that landfall will occur south of Venice and north of Fort Myers, Florida, between noon and 3 p.m. EDT. Landfall is classified as when the center of the eye moves over land. As of 9 a.m. EDT, maximum sustained winds near the heart of Ian were 155 mph, just 2 mph shy of being upgraded to a Category 5 storm.
(NOAA GOES East)
Hurricane Ian is a compact storm, according to AccuWeather meteorologists, but the storm’s impacts are already having a significant impact across Florida. Power outages were above 100,000 early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.US. Conditions are only expected to deteriorate further across the Florida Peninsula as Ian makes landfall and tracks inland on Wednesday afternoon and evening. The storm is also bringing a significant tornado threat to southern Florida, and the storm already unleashed several damaging tornadoes in the Miami area on Tuesday.
Hurricane Ian is rapidly intensifying on its final approach to Florida, with landfall projected south of Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. Given the tremendous power of the storm, forecasters have increased the rating of Ian to a 5 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, meaning that AccuWeather believes there will be catastrophic, long-lasting impacts and widespread structural and tree damage. Unlike the Saffir-Simpson scale, which only takes wind speed into account, the RealImpact™ Scale factor in storm surge, flooding rain, wind and economic damage.
Flooding and storm surge is one of the most destructive aspects of hurricanes, and forecasters are now expecting the catastrophic surge to reach 15 to 20 feet above the normal tide level along the coast just west of Fort Myers, Florida. This encompasses much of the same area that was hit so hard by Hurricane Charley in 2004.
Ian continues to intensify as it inches closer to the Florida coast. Recent data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicates that Ian’s maximum sustained winds have increased to 155 mph, which is just 2 mph short of a Category 5 strength. Ian is currently to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, but given recent intensification, the storm could be upgraded to a Category 5 prior to landfall.
Regardless of the exact category, Ian will deliver devastating storm surge, flooding, widespread wind damage and long-lasting power outages to Florida’s west coast. AccuWeather forecasters have narrowed down landfall to be just northwest of Fort Myers, between Don Pedro Island and Boca Grande, around 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. After landfall, Ian is expected to rapidly weaken to a Category 1 hurricane by Thursday morning.
Hurricane Ian is now at its highest strength thus far, with winds of 140 mph. This makes Ian a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This is also the strongest storm so far this year in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Earl was also a Category 4, but winds topped out at 130 mph. Category 4 storms have a wind range between 130 and 156 mph.
One of the most direct home impacts of Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida will be power outages, and the state’s top energy companies are preparing for what may be a massive spike in outages throughout the week. AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor spoke with Anna Gibbs, spokesperson for Duke Energy Florida, with the company contacting teams from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and Maine to help with power restoration.
“We are so grateful to have these agreements … to have these crews that are willing to leave their families behind, travel thousands of miles to come and help our customers get the lights back on as safely and quickly as possible,” Gibbs told Victor.
Gibbs noted two safety messages for Florida customers through Ian’s landfall, namely being proactive in shutting off power before flooding occurs in a home, as well as staying at least 30 feet away from downed power lines which may still have electricity. “Electricity and water do not mix … because this hurricane event is likely going to involve storm surge and flooding, we’re asking customers in those situations to go ahead and shut off power at their breaker,” Gibbs said.
Despite Ian's landfall still being several hours away, multiple locations have already received over 9 inches of rain.
Since the rain began on Monday evening, more than 9.50 inches of rain have fallen in both North Miami and South Miami. Slightly less has fallen at Miami International Airport, with 5.56 inches so far. Elsewhere, Key West International Airport has topped the 6-inch mark. The naval station in Key West has accumulated 6.51 inches.
Wind gusts have continued to increase in strength as Hurricane Ian continues to draw closer to Florida. Late on Tuesday evening, Key West International Airport recorded a wind gust of 79 mph. However, even higher wind gusts were reported elsewhere. Wind gusts of around 90 mph were measured at Smith Shoal and at a buoy just northwest of the Dry Tortugas.
Click here for previous updates on Hurricane Ian.
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