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Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon as a powerful Category 4 storm.
Maximum sustained winds were around 150 mph as it hit the southwest coast at the island of Cayo Costa near Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
By Wednesday night, more than 2 million customers were without power in the state, and communities along Florida's west coast had issued mandatory curfews.
Later Wednesday, the storm gradually weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 90 mph, but heavy rain continued to pummel the state, and storm surge warnings remained in effect.
The National Hurricane Center has warned of "life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding in the Florida Peninsula," with millions under evacuation orders.
Meanwhile, across Cuba, residents have been left without power after sweeping outages in Ian's wake.
Hurricane Ian winds drop further, flood risk remains
Hurricane Ian’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 75 mph by early Thursday, the day after it struck Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm.
But northeastern and central Florida were forecast to get 10 to 20 inches of rain, and up to 30 inches in some spots, the National Hurricane Center said. Florida’s eastern coast may also see a storm surge of 6 feet.
It did not appear that any deaths had been reported in the hurricane, but officials near where it struck earlier Wednesday said the damage was feared to be extensive and it was unknown how bad the situation was as high winds were continuing.
Man, 91-year-old mother ‘trapped’ on 22nd floor of Fort Myers, Florida, high-rise
Cape Coral hit by storm surge; residents trapped in homes and vehicles
Why ‘Category 4’ doesn’t begin to explain Hurricane Ian’s dangers
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s southwestern coast Wednesday as a strong Category 4 storm, making it one of only 15 Category 4 or 5 hurricanes on record to hit the state.
Its rating could understate how much destruction the storm brings.
Even as Ian gathered strength and neared Category 5 status, experts warned that solely paying attention to a hurricane’s category often masks just how destructive and life-threatening such storms can be — particularly as climate change makes hurricanes both rainier and more intense.
All flights out of Jacksonville airport canceled
The terminal at Jacksonville International Airport will be closed Thursday, and all flights in and out are canceled, the airport said.
The airport asked passengers to contact their airlines to rebook in an announcement on social media late Wednesday.
The airport had said Wednesday morning it would remain open as long as its airline partners and the Federal Aviation Administration deemed conditions safe to fly.
Jacksonville, on Florida's Atlantic coast, closed all three of its beaches Wednesday in preparation for Hurricane Ian's impacts.
The National Weather Service in Jacksonville has warned of extensive flash flooding, especially over northeast Florida, and it cautioned in an update Wednesday afternoon that the city could get 8 to 10 inches of rain.
Hurricane Ian weakens to a Category 1, but storm still battering Florida
Hurricane Ian’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 90 mph by late Wednesday, but the storm was still battering Florida with heavy rain and the risk of life-threatening storm surge, officials said.
The wind speeds made Ian a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It was a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds when it made landfall near Cayo Costa on Florida's western coast at 3 p.m.
Officials in Lee County say the damage there is extensive, but its full scope was not clearly known. Residents reported being trapped by high water.
Central and northeast Florida could get 20 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 p.m. advisory. Its center was about 70 miles south of Orlando as it moved northeast at 8 mph.
Storm surge warnings covered most of the western coast, including Tampa Bay, and were also in place on the East Coast, from around Volusia County to parts of South Carolina.
Terry Mazany, of Fort Myers, described it as a “freight train” of wind. The building they are in is surrounded by 8 feet of water, he said on MSNBC.
Crew-5 mission to International Space Station is delayed, NASA says
NASA and SpaceX are delaying a launch to the International Space Station by at least 24 hours after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, officials said Wednesday.
The Crew-5 mission, originally scheduled to leave from Kennedy Space Center off Florida’s east coast on Monday, is set to take three astronauts and a cosmonaut to the station, NASA said.
The flight will take off no sooner than 12 p.m. on Oct. 5, although it could be further delayed, the agency said.
Hurricane Ian plunges more than 2 million customers into darkness
At least 2 million customers across more than 12 Florida counties are without power Wednesday night, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks utility data across the country.
Roughly half of those without power are in the region serviced by Florida Power & Light Co., whose coverage area includes the hard-hit communities of Lee County.
A message posted on the utility's website said crews are working to restore power "in between weather bands as conditions allow."
Late Wednesday, the utility asked people to be prepared for widespread and extended outages as crews assess the damage.
"Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic winds will mean parts of our system will need to be rebuilt — not restored," Florida Power & Light Co. tweeted Wednesday night. "We are already at work restoring power where we can do so safely."
Storm chaser: ‘Damage is widespread’ from Hurricane Ian
Biden says he has given DeSantis 'everything' he's asked for in emergency response
President Joe Biden said Wednesday night that his administration has provided Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with all of the resources he has asked for to respond to Hurricane Ian.
“We have been completely responsive to the governor of Florida, everything he’s needed and asked for,” Biden said in remarks at an event hosted by the Democratic Governors Association. “We’ve given the governor every single thing he’s asked for, in terms of emergency response.”
Biden added that he would be meeting with officials at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday and "do whatever the people of Florida need."
National Hurricane Center: Lingering flooding from Ian could make response in Florida difficult
Reports of 'compromised' buildings, vehicles floating away in Lee County, sheriff says
There have been reports of vehicles floating to the ocean in Lee County, where Hurricane Ian struck Wednesday, the sheriff said.
Authorities don’t know exactly how bad the damage is in the county, which includes the city of Fort Myers, because winds have been too strong for response efforts, Sheriff Carmine Marceno said around 8 p.m.
“Reports of buildings compromised, we have reports of vehicles being, just floating out into the ocean,” he said. He said 911 callers have also reported damaged roofs that there was and one report of a building that collapsed.
Marceno said that hundreds of deputies were ready to respond as soon as weather conditions permit. "Obviously, there are a lot of challenges that we face. We don’t even know exactly what we face just yet," he said. "We know we’ve been hit very hard."
Ian made landfall in as a Category 4 hurricane near Cayo Costa in Lee County around 3 p.m. Wednesday. It was a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds at 8 p.m.
Hurricane Ian weakens to Category 3; northeast Florida coastline prepares for storm surge
People stranded in Lee County, where damage is ‘extensive’
Officials in Lee County, Florida, where Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday, say initial assessments have revealed extensive damage.
County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that there is extensive damage to infrastructure but that officials don’t know the extent yet in the county, which includes Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
“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,” he said.
Officials said that people are stranded by high water but that officials have been unable to respond to them because of weather conditions.
“We are aware of a number of calls of people who are stranded due to high water,” Lee County Public Safety Director Benjamin Abes said at a news conference. “However, we are faced with conditions that make it impossible to respond right now.”
911 calls are being prioritized for when authorities can respond, he said. People with water in their homes should call 911 and “and seek the highest spot possible.”
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said deputies and other first responders would go to the rescue as soon as they are able.
"Right now, just do the best you can to get to higher ground. Go to the second floor,” Marceno said. “Those that are in need: We want to get to you, and we will get to you as soon as possible.”
Surveying the damage in Davie, Florida
Orlando-area residents asked to shelter in place
Residents in Orange County, the Florida county that is home to Orlando, have been told to stay inside and off roads as the effects of Hurricane Ian began to be felt Wednesday evening.
“We’ve asked all of our residents to start the process of sheltering in place,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a 6 p.m. news conference. “You should not be out on the roadways at this time moving about the community.”
Ian was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph at 8 p.m., and its center was about 95 miles southwest of Orlando, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving northeast.
Orlando was under a hurricane warning, and the National Weather Service said conditions will deteriorate Wednesday night.
“The threat of significant to catastrophic flooding” was expected for an area that includes metro Orlando, the weather agency said, and flooding can be especially dangerous at night. In addition to the wind and the storm surge, the area could get 10 to 15 inches of rain, it said.
“There’s no question that we’re now feeling the effects of this hurricane, and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet,” Demings said.
Hurricane Ian weakens to a Category 3 storm
Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ian, which came ashore in Florida as a powerful Category 4 hurricane and has been lashing the state with winds of 150 mph, is now recording sustained winds of 115 mph, the hurricane center said in its 8 p.m. update.
Ian, which was moving northeast at 8 mph, was about 95 miles southwest of Orlando.
The storm is forecast to move across central Florida on Wednesday night, and catastrophic wind damage is likely near its core, the hurricane center said.
"Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and urban flooding, with major to record flooding along rivers, is expected to continue across central Florida," the center said in its latest update.
Virginia, North Carolina declare states of emergency
The governors of North Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency Wednesday evening ahead of Hurricane Ian's expected impact later this week.
“A State of Emergency is needed now so that farmers and those preparing for the storm can more quickly get ready for the heavy rain that is likely to fall in much of our state,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in his executive order. “North Carolinians should stay aware, keep a close eye on the forecast and prepare their emergency supplies.”
The remnants of Ian could bring heavy rain, flooding and even tornadoes to North Carolina on Friday and Saturday. Declaring a state of emergency activates emergency operations plans, waives rules that could inhibit the transport of fuel and critical supplies, helps first responders and protects consumers from price gouging, Cooper said.
Eighty members of the North Carolina National Guard have been activated.
In Virginia, the state of emergency mobilizes resources and equipment needed for response and recovery efforts, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement.
“We want to ensure that our communities have the resources needed to respond to and recover from any potential effects from the storm," he said. "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."
Power outages top 1.5 million in Florida
About 1.5 million customers were without power in Florida at 6:45 p.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us.
The number has been steadily ticking upward throughout the day as Hurricane Ian batters communities and plunges more and more people into darkness.
Florida Power & Light Co., the utility that serves areas hardest hit by Ian, continues to report the most outages, at nearly 1 million homes and businesses Wednesday evening.
Biden reaches out to Florida mayors offering federal support
President Joe Biden on Wednesday reached out to local officials in Florida to "let them know their communities have the full force of the federal government behind them," the White House said.
The president called the mayors of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sarasota and the chair of Charlotte County to discuss the kinds of assistance they might need with Hurricane Ian making landfall. According to a readout from the White House, Biden was able to get hold of only Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson.
The pair "discussed Fort Myers’ ongoing needs including support for the elderly members of the community, families that live in mobile homes and other community members who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the storm," the White House said.
Biden left messages for the other officials, the White House said. He spoke to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night.
DeSantis warns that more deaths typically occur after a storm hits, urges people to wait
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said people should not immediately venture outside after Hurricane Ian passes, warning that data from past hurricanes shows a higher number of post-storm deaths.
"In Hurricane Irma, there were seven fatalities directly because of the storm, and there were 77 that were a result of post-storm," he said at a news briefing Wednesday evening.
A lot of deaths stem from downed power lines, standing water and the misuse of generators. "Please, make sure that you’re taking the proper precautions," DeSantis said.
DeSantis also addressed the rescue response, saying first responders will wait until things calm down before they venture out. In the meantime, people who live in high-risk areas and have called authorities for help are being "logged," he said.
Curfews issued for coastal communities in Florida
Mandatory curfew orders have been issued for the coastal communities of Collier County and the city of Fort Myers starting Wednesday night local time.
The curfew for Collier County, which includes the city of Naples and parts of Everglades National Park, starts Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET and will remain in effect through 6 a.m. ET Thursday. First responders and staff members at hospitals and other essential businesses are exempt.
The city of Fort Myers, in neighboring Lee County, ordered a 48-hour curfew that goes into effect Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Damaged condos from apparent tornado caused by Hurricane Ian
Ian batters Florida as officials issue new watches and warnings as far away as North Carolina
Hurricane Ian was battering Florida with catastrophic winds and flooding Wednesday, weather officials said as they issued new watches and warnings from the storm as far away as North Carolina.
In a 5 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said the eye of the storm was northwest of Fort Myers and moving north toward central Florida at 8 mph. Ian’s wind speeds were clocked at 140 mph, while its storm surge was as high as 18 feet in some areas.
A tropical storm warning was extended to Surf City, North Carolina, while a storm surge watch was issued for most of South Carolina’s northern coast. A tropical storm watch was also extended to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.
The storm is expected to weaken as it moves across Florida, the center said, but it could still be a hurricane when it moves toward the state’s east coast Thursday.
Flamingos at St. Petersburg botanical garden take shelter from storm in bathroom
More than 1 million power outages reported in Florida
Power outages have topped 1 million across Florida as of 4:45 p.m. ET, less than two hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall.
The bulk of these outages, more than 700,000, are within the coverage area serviced by Florida Power & Light Co. This includes Lee County, where Ian first hit Wednesday afternoon.
City of Bradenton warns wastewater treatment plant in danger of overflowing
The city of Bradenton, about 25 miles south of St. Petersburg, Florida, said its public works staff had warned that the city's wastewater treatment plant was "full and is in danger of overflowing."
The city pleaded with residents to conserve water, adding that they should avoid doing "dishes or laundry, flush only when necessary, limit showering, etc."
‘You have to stay put’: Fort Myers mayor urges nonevacuated residents to stay indoors
3 Cuban migrants rescued after vessel sinks amid Ian, 20 still missing
Three Cuban migrants who attempted to swim to shore after their vessel sank in the midst of Hurricane Ian have been rescued by U.S. Coast Guard crews, officials said in a tweet.
They are being treated in a local hospital for symptoms related to exhaustion and dehydration.
Twenty other migrants are still missing and an air search is underway, officials said.
Hurricane Ian is fifth most powerful storm in terms of wind speed to ever hit U.S.
'Don't go outside': Charlotte County spokesperson urges residents to remain indoors
Todd Dunn, the public information officer for Charlotte County, urged nonevacuated residents to remain inside as Hurricane Ian slammed Florida on Wednesday.
The county, which is just north of Fort Myers, was preparing for 8 to 14 feet of storm surge as the winds picked up, Dunn said. Emergency teams were on standby to begin rescues, but they were waiting until it was safe to venture out.
Dunn said he hoped people had heeded the county's warnings and evacuated before the storm arrived, as the shelter that can hold 3,500 people only held about 1,000 when the storm hit.
"Our message we have been trying to convey: Stay safe and go to an interior space, away from windows and doors, and get to a center part of your house and ride the storm out," he said. "Don’t go outside. It is very dangerous."
NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders offers a glimpse behind those dramatic hurricane shots
More than 800,000 Floridians without power
Hurricane Ian has knocked out power for more than 810,000 people in Florida as of 3:35 p.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utilities across the state.
Florida Power & Light Co., whose service area includes Lee County, reported the most outages Wednesday afternoon, with nearly 542,000 customers without power.
Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, in Lee County, shortly after 3 p.m. ET.
Ian makes landfall on the west coast of Florida
Hurricane Ian made landfall on the west coast of Florida at 3:05 p.m. ET as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, hitting the southwest coast at the island of Cayo Costa, near Fort Myers and Cape Coral, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ian walloped the region with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.
'People will be forced to swim': Expert fears Florida residents unprepared for Ian's storm surge
From his perch atop a parking garage in Punta Gorda, Florida, Hal Needham is expecting catastrophe from Hurricane Ian, which was churning with incredible power offshore Wednesday and bearing down on a town where it was clear not everyone had heeded warnings to evacuate.
Needham told NBC News by phone that residents nearby were not ready for what was to come.
“I think a lot of people will be forced to swim or wade in the water for their survival,” he said, speaking from a town in the path of Ian. “It will be like a raging river.”
Needham, an extreme weather and disaster scientist with the GeoTrek project, said Wednesday that he is expecting a massive storm surge as the hurricane approached. The powerful hurricane drew water out of the harbor alongside Punta Gorda on Wednesday morning, but soon all of that water and much more would be flowing through Punta Gorda.
“We’ll get a surge here that will be catastrophic," he said. "We’re expecting 12 to 18 feet of storm surge, according to the National Hurricane Center.”
Tampa tenant facing eviction stays put, fearing landlord won’t let him back in after Ian
TAMPA, Fla. — With Hurricane Ian bearing down on Florida, 63-year-old Kenny Lofton faced two equally awful scenarios Wednesday — being evicted from his apartment by his landlord or being evicted by the storm.
Lofton said he knew staying put could be dangerous, but feared leaving his apartment in North Tampa for a shelter because he might not have a home to come back to when the hurricane finally passes.
“I’m home packing my belongings,” Lofton told NBC News. “I have no clue where to go.”
Lofton is one of the more than 2 million people in Florida who were asked to pack up and evacuate before Ian made landfall. But he is also facing eviction Friday because, with rising prices, his government housing assistance is no longer enough to pay the rent.
Apparent downed power line catches fire after Hurricane Ian’s eyewall makes landfall in Florida
Hurricane Hunter flies into Ian and takes video of the 'roughest flight of my career'
Nick Underwood, an engineer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunters, has flown into storms with a team of scientists for the past six years.
He said the flight into Hurricane Ian on the P-3 turboprop plane the NOAA has flown into hurricanes since the 1970s was undoubtedly the "roughest flight of my career."
He shared video of the flight, in which the NOAA measures various aspects of the storm, on his Twitter account.
Ian already wreaking havoc as it nears coast of southwestern Florida
Hurricane Ian was already causing "catastrophic" storm surge, winds and flooding along the Florida Peninsula on Wednesday afternoon as the storm neared the southwestern coast of the state, according to a 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Ian was packed with maximum sustained winds around 155 mph, according to the center. The storm was about 25 miles away from Fort Myers.
More than 1,000 Florida flights canceled Tuesday as Hurricane Ian approaches
In total, Florida airports canceled more than 1,000 flights set to arrive or depart Tuesday, according to FlightAware.
More than 700 arrivals and departures were canceled at the Orlando International Airport after it closed Tuesday evening. It also shut down commercial flights Wednesday.
Miami International Airport said it had canceled 206 arrivals and 214 departures Tuesday due to the hurricane. The airport said that would affect flights between Miami and cities across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Tampa International Airport closed Tuesday, canceling hundreds of flights Wednesday as Ian's arrival loomed. Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers closed as well and reported hundreds of cancellations as a result.
Floridians are livestreaming Hurricane Ian on TikTok
Floridians are giving TikTok users a front-row seat to Hurricane Ian.
Dozens of TikTok users in Florida used TikTok’s livestream feature Wednesday to offer a window into their lives as the hurricane approached. Some showed beaches and struggled to speak above the howling winds, while others broadcast from their homes as trees were whipped around outside.
“I wanted to give an accurate portrayal,” Brad Stecklein, a golf instructor in Fort Myers, who goes by “golfpantsman” on TikTok, told NBC News in a phone interview Wednesday. Stecklein has gone live on TikTok to more than 5,000 people to showcase the storm in his backyard.
“These storms have been so overhyped in the 20 years my wife and I have lived down here, it’s hard to take them seriously,” he said. “This one is going to redefine how people act.”
Gov. DeSantis: 42,000 linemen prepared to restore power in response to hurricane
Jacksonville mayor issues a state of emergency for the city
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry declared a state of emergency for his city Wednesday and recommended evacuations for those who live in areas prone to flooding.
Residents should quickly learn what evacuation and flood zones they live in, said Curry, who also activated the city's emergency operations center.
The order made it easier to allocate money and resources to protect those who live in Jacksonville, he said. It also opened emergency shelters and closed schools and government buildings from Wednesday through at least Saturday.
Curry emphasized, however, that he was not yet ordering a mandatory evacuation.
Naples mayor indicates concern for thrill-seekers as Ian approaches
Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann expressed “safety concerns for “thrill-seekers” Wednesday afternoon as Hurricane Ian made its way inland.
Thrill-seekers are known to chase the eye of hurricanes that hit land, an extremely dangerous activity.
“It’s concerning, it’s very dangerous, there are downed wires, we’ve had a few electrical fires," she said Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC.
Heitmann and the city's manager, Jay Boodheshwar, drove through Naples as the high tide approached. Residents were still seen on the city’s streets.
“My message to them is, please, stay indoors and hunker down.”
Officials have spoken about how disappointing it is to see people take the risk.
“Unfortunately we can’t get to them now, the streets are flooding, and it is coming in fast and furious.”
Federal hurricane response, by the numbers
Here is what the federal government has provided so far to help with hurricane preparations:
128,000 gallons of fuel ready for rapid deployment
3.7 million meals and 925,000 gallons of water positioned in Alabama
350 personnel staged from the Army Corps of Engineers
5,000 Florida National Guard troops staged, with another 2,000 Guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina activated
“Hundreds” of FEMA personnel staged in Miami, Orlando and Atlanta, including FEMA Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech
The American Red Cross says it will have 2,500 responders ready to deploy to the region
30,000 personnel staged from Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric
300 ambulances on standby, plus a 38-person disaster medical assistance team from the Department of Health and Human Services staged in Miami, with an additional two medical assistance teams deployed to Robin Air Force Base in Georgia
HHS also deployed a 15-person incident management team, two 15-person health and medical task force teams and four pharmacists to Atlanta, with more staff anticipated in the next 24 hours
Orange County and Orlando could see up to 24 inches of rain, possible tornadoes
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the area, which includes Orlando, is projected to see as much as 24 inches of rain, winds nearing 100 mph and possible tornadoes as Hurricane Ian moves inland.
He said the county is “within the crosshairs” of the storm, with significant winds expected to hit the area as soon as 2 p.m. ET.
He said a tornado watch is in effect for much of east Central Florida and Orange County through at least 5 p.m.
“Within the next 24 hours, we will get sustained winds of 95 mph. So that means that those are hurricane force winds that will create significant damage for our community," he said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "We want everyone to be prepared for that. By this evening, we will be experiencing full tropical force, tropical storm winds.”
Demings asked locals to relocate by no later than 2 p.m., then hunker down.
Satellite captures moment eyewall of Ian hits Florida
Tampa no longer a bull's-eye for Ian, but city is 'not out of the woods yet'
Hurricane Ian's trajectory has shifted and Tampa is no longer in its direct path, the city's mayor told reporters Wednesday afternoon. But the city is "not out of the woods yet," she added.
"Do not let your guard down now," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said at a news conference.
Ian will probably still cause flooding and power outages across Tampa, she said. That's why residents who have already evacuated should not return until the storm has passed, she said.
Eyewall of Ian hits Florida, moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva islands
The eyewall of Hurricane Ian was moving onshore at the Sanibel and Captiva islands in Florida, the National Hurricane Center said in a noon ET update.
The islands are located just off the coast of Fort Myers, about 25 miles northwest of Naples.
Sustained winds of 71 mph and a wind gust of 98 mph were reported at a weather station near Sanibel Island, the weather service said.
The storm is currently located about 50 miles west, northwest of Naples, barreling forward with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.
Sarasota police taken off the streets; mayor says 'too late to evacuate'
Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo said Wednesday that police officers have been removed from the streets due to “hazardous conditions” as Hurricane Ian draws near.
“We just made the decision just now to withdraw all of our police officers from the streets just because of the sustained wind pressure that we’ve been having,” he said on CNN.
Arroyo warned that over the next few hours, “we’re anticipating that everyone will heed the governor’s warning and stay hunkered down. It is too late to evacuate at this point.”
He said all city buildings and assets have been fortified, police have an evacuation plan and officers have been redirecting traffic.
"Our main priority is the safety of our residents and we’ve been preparing for this for years. For this particular hurricane, we’ve been preparing since last week," Arroyo said.
Hurricane Ian's ‘dangerous’ eyewall approaches Florida coast
Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, tells residents to shelter in place
The flash flooding and fierce winds across Florida's Hillsborough County are so intense that officials believe residents need to stay off the roads and shelter in place until Ian has passed.
"Remain sheltered where you are. Do not attempt to relocate to a Hillsborough County emergency shelter or any other location," county officials said in a statement Wednesday as the storm neared Category 5 strength.
Officials in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, told residents to shelter in "an interior room," away from windows and skylights. They advised that residents keep their cellphones and electronic devices charged in case of power loss, adding that flashlights or chemical sticks are safer than candles.
"Once storm conditions subside, do not leave your home until officials announce that it is safe," officials said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis warns millions will lose power within 48 hours
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned millions of people will lose power in the state within the next 48 hours in what will be a “historic storm,” during a Wednesday morning news conference.
DeSantis said of locals in Hurricane Ian's path: “Fortunately, most of them are not going to have their homes destroyed, but almost all of them are going to lose power.”
"Resuming services is a top priority," he said.
DeSantis said Ian’s impact will last long after the storm passes.
“This is going to be something that is going to be there for days and weeks and months and unfortunately, in some circumstances, even years.”
DeSantis warned locals to stay home even after the hurricane clears.
“There’s a lot of hazards that happen after the storm and more recent storms, not as strong as this, have seen more fatalities even in the aftermath of the storm than from the direct impact of the storm itself.”
5,000 Florida National Guard troops on the ground ahead of Hurricane Ian
As Ian looms, 5,000 Florida National Guard troops stand at the ready Wednesday to aid residents at armories and bases.
Another 2,000 guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina are "activated and ready to assist if needed," the National Guard said in a news release.
In addition to troops on the ground, 16 helicopters, 1,640 high-wheeled vehicles, seven boats, 36 fuel tankers and generators are also available for search and rescue operations, to help clear roads and to support law enforcement, officials said.
A satellite system was also set up for video and data communications in case of infrastructure damage, the release said.
'Waffle House Index' update: The chain closes 21 locations in another sign of Ian's danger
Waffle House, a popular restaurant chain known for staying open during severe weather, closed 21 locations in Florida from Bradenton to Naples as of Wednesday morning, a company spokeswoman said — underscoring the danger posed by Hurricane Ian.
Inside the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials use the so-called "Waffle House Index" as an unofficial metric to determine the severity of a natural disaster and the level of federal response it might require. The term was coined by former FEMA chief Craig Fugate.
Power goes out for more than 230,000 customers across Florida
More than 230,000 customers in Florida were without power as of 11 a.m. ET, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that aggregates data from utilities across the state.
The website said that roughly 233,545 customers have lost power.
Meanwhile, virtually all of Cuba was in the dark after sweeping outages in Ian's wake.
Biden warns oil industry against storm-related price hikes
President Joe Biden warned oil and gasoline producers Wednesday not to use Hurricane Ian as an "excuse" to hike prices and "gouge the American people."
The incoming storm will impact the production by less than 2% a day and shouldn't impact the cost of oil and gasoline, the president said.
"Do not, let me repeat, do not, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices and gouge the American people," Biden told attendees at a White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health.
The president also urged Floridians to heed the warnings of local authorities to evacuate if Ian comes their way.
"You should obey all warnings and directions from emergency officials," he said. "Don't take anything for granted. Use their judgment, not yours. Evacuate when ordered, be prepared."
NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson hammered by wind off St. Petersburg
FEMA, National Weather Service warn of deadly floods
Ken Graham, the director of the National Weather Service, warned of the “devastating” impact of Hurricane Ian, cautioning that heavy rainfall across the state will have a hard time draining due to 12-18 foot storm surges, leading to deadly floods.
“This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come,” he said at a news briefing in Washington, D.C. “It’s a dangerous, life-threatening storm surge.”
Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that efforts were underway to provide backup power to critical infrastructure, and that water and food were being staged in Alabama. Search and rescue teams have also been set up in Miami to help people trapped by the storm, she said.
She said people should never drive through standing or moving water, urging the public to seek higher ground if they are in an area with rising water. And she said that generators should never be used inside a house due to the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning; they should only be used outside.
“As with any storm, the most important work starts at home,” Criswell said, urging people to listen to guidance from their local officials.
Charlotte County suspends emergency response services
Charlotte County, home to nearly 187,000 people on Florida's west coast, said Wednesday morning that it had suspended calls for service due to deteroriating weather conditions.
The county earlier in the morning told residents to shelter in place.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West assists 7 people before storm makes landfall
The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West said crews have already assisted seven people who called for help as Ian approached Florida as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph. The Coast Guard shared a video on Twitter of crews responding to someone who had called from a wind-blown boat.
"It’s always safer to follow city, county evac recommendations," the Coast Guard said.
Biden directs federal agencies to 'surge all available resources' to Florida as Ian nears
President Joe Biden has directed the heads of federal agencies across the U.S. government to "surge all available resources" to areas in Florida affected by Hurricane Ian's incoming arrival, the White House said.
As of Wednesday, there were more than 1,300 federal response workers on the ground in Florida to support emergency preparations, "including operations, planning, power restoration, debris removal, and urban search and rescue," it said in a statement.
At least 110,000 gallons of fuel and 18,000 pounds of propane are ready for immediate deployment, as well as personnel and equipment to support distribution, the statement said. A variety of generators of "all sizes and types" have also been readied.
Meanwhile, at least 3.7 million meals and 925,000 gallons of water are being staged in Alabama, the White House said.
The Biden administration said it also has at least 300 ambulances already in the state to respond to the impact of Ian, along with other resources.
Photos show waters receding as officials warn they 'will come back'
The city of Venice shared images from the its Venice Fishing Pier showing waters receding as Hurricane Ian advances.
The National Weather Service of Tampa Bay posted the images on its Twitter account, warning residents that they should not attempt to go near the area or "any other location with receding water."
"The water WILL come back," it said.
The Tampa Police Department also shared similar photos of receding waters from Bayshore Boulevard, warning they are a "clear sign that #hurricaneian is drawing near."
Expected storm surge levels increase to 12-18 feet in some places
Predictions for historic storm surge levels along the southwestern coast of Florida have been increased, the National Hurricane Center has said.
As of 9 a.m. ET, peak storm surge inundation was increased to 12 to 18 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach, as well as in Charlotte Harbor, it said.
Expected levels from Bonita Beach to Chokoloskee were also increased to 8 to 12 feet, while from Chokoloskee to East Cape Sable, storm surge levels were expected at 5 to 8 feet.
The hurricane center has repeatedly warned of the potentially life-threatening impacts of storm surge, which sees an abnormal rise of water caused by a storm over and above the predicted astronomical tide.
'This storm is bigger than the state of Florida,' Rubio says
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expressed concerns Wednesday of the potentially life-threatening impacts Hurricane Ian could have as it advances upon Florida's west coast.
Asked what he was worried about most during an interview on Fox News, Rubio said: "The water. The flooding."
"We talk about storm surge. We talk about flooding. We’re talking about people drowning to death, dying because of water is way too high. They had to redo the numbers last night. Storm surge map, they didn’t have a color for 12 to 15 feet," he said about the historic levels of storm surge expected near where Ian is expected to make landfall.
"I worry and now we pray for people who didn’t heed the evacuation warnings," Rubio said.
"This is a massive storm. This storm is bigger than the state of Florida. It’s wider than the peninsula," he said.
At least 1,990 U.S. flights canceled for Wednesday, many due to Ian
At least 1,990 flights within, to or from the United States were canceled Wednesday, with many of the cancellations involving airports affected by Hurricane Ian.
Orlando International Airport had at least 313 cancellations listed as of early Wednesday, while Miami International Airport had at least 234 cancellations.
American Airlines said it has canceled a total of 544 flights due to Ian.
It comes after the airline issued a travel alert Monday for 20 airports in the western Caribbean and Florida, allowing customers whose travel plans are affected by Ian to rebook without change fees.
Skyway Bridge closed in both directions amid strong winds
The Florida Highway Patrol has closed the Skyway Bridge in both directions amid heavy winds Wednesday morning as Hurricane Ian approaches.
The agency said winds ranged between 50 to 60 mph by around 7:50 a.m., forcing officials to close the bridge connecting Pinellas and Manatee counties.
"The bridge will remain closed until the storm passes and the inclement weather subsides," it said.
The highway patrol said motorists needing to travel Wednesday and Thursday should confirm the availability of their route by checking its incidents page.
Early morning scenes in St. Petersburg, Florida.
'Last opportunity' to get to evacuation centers in Sarasota County, officials say
Sarasota County officials have warned that residents are at their "last opportunity" to get to evacuation centers or they will need to shelter in place.
"As you're waking up this morning, you're seeing the conditions outside deteriorate, the weather and the winds are picking up," Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane said in a video update shared on Facebook around 8:20 a.m. ET.
"If you can still get to an evacuation center, evacuation shelter or find a friend or family member's house safely, then do that," he said. But, McCrane added, "if you get to a point where you have not done that and you are at home, you need to shelter in place."
Tornado watch issued for parts of Florida
A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Florida until Wednesday evening.
"Several tornadoes" are likely as Hurricane Ian advances upon Florida's west coast, the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay said.
The tornado watch is expected to remain in place until 5 p.m. ET, it said.
'Time to take cover,' Red Cross warns Charlotte County
"It is time to take cover," Charlotte County is being warned.
The American Red Cross of Central Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands issued the warning in a tweet, advising residents to "stay inside in the innermost room in your home with no windows."
It issued the same statement in Spanish in a following tweet.
Historic life-threatening storm surge of 12-16 feet possible
Life-threatening storm surge of up to 12 to 16 feet and catastrophic winds near where Ian makes landfall Wednesday could alter life in southwest Florida for weeks to come.
Historic storm surge is possible in Charlotte Bay down to Fort Myers. It could potentially take years to recover from the damage Ian is likely to bring.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said early Wednesday that Ian is expected to make landfall in Charlotte County.
Landfall timing continues to look earlier, likely early afternoon, with Ian set to come onshore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane.
If the storm gets any stronger, it could intensify into a Category 5 storm.
Too late to evacuate for some residents, DeSantis warns
It is too late for residents of Charlotte County, where Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon, to evacuate their homes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned.
"It's no longer possible to safely evacuate," he said, speaking at a news conference early Wednesday. For those living in Charlotte County and nearby, "it's time to hunker down and prepare for this storm," he said.
DeSantis warned residents to treat the incoming storm as if it were a tornado approaching their homes.
He said bridge closures were already in place and he urged everyone to remain indoors.
Ian to make landfall in Charlotte County, potentially as Category 5, DeSantis says
Hurricane Ian is on track to make landfall in Charlotte County, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.
With maximum sustained winds of nearly 155 mph, with higher gusts, the storm, which is currently Category 4, was "knocking on the door of a Category 5 storm," he said at a news conference around 7:30 a.m.
DeSantis said Ian would hit Florida's west coast as a "major hurricane," with forecasters expecting it to make landfall Wednesday afternoon.
A view of Hurricane Ian from the International Space Station
Strong winds, heavy rains in Fort Lauderdale
Video shared on social media showed strong winds and heavy rains pounding Fort Lauderdale in the early hours of Wednesday.
In the footage captured just before 5 a.m by Twitter user @photobytoolow, trees can be seen blowing in the wind as heavy rains blast the area in Fort Lauderdale Beach.
2 taken to hospital after Delray Beach apartment complex damaged by possible tornado
Two people were taken to a hospital after their apartment complex suffered severe weather damage pointing to a possible tornado touchdown, officials said.
Firefighters were called around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday and encountered "a lot of wind and damage," the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said in a statement.
It said one person had called 911 because a roof collapse had left her stuck in the bathroom. Firefighters were able to rescue her.
The fire department said at least 30 people had to be evacuated for their safety, while the roof was "blown off of several top floor apartments" and cars were found toppled and rolled upside down.
It said the damage pointed to a "possible tornado touchdown." The National Weather Service in Miami had warned of a tornado threat for southeast Florida counties ahead of Hurricane Ian's arrival.
Ian on track to make landfall in Florida as 'catastrophic' Category 4 storm
Hurricane Ian is strengthening as it nears Florida's west coast, officials said.
Maximum sustained winds had increased to nearly 155 mph, with higher gusts as of around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.
Ian is forecast to make landfall on the west coast as a "catastrophic category 4 hurricane," with weakening expected after landfall, it said.
Landfall most likely to happen between Venice Beach and Fort Myers
As Hurricane Ian, now a powerful Category 4 storm, takes aim at Florida's west coast, landfall is most likely to happen between Venice Beach and Fort Myers.
Venice Beach is about 80 miles south of Tampa.
The center of Ian is expected to approach the west coast of Florida Wednesday morning, before moving onshore later in the day.
As of early Wednesday, maximum sustained winds were near 140 mph, with higher gusts.
Pollution from Florida mining a concern with Hurricane Ian
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 billion tons in “stacks” that resemble enormous ponds, are at risk for leaks or other contamination when Hurricane Ian comes ashore in the state, environmental groups say.
Florida has 24 such phosphogypsum stacks, most of them concentrated in mining areas in the central part of the state. About 30 million tons of this slightly radioactive waste is generated every year, according to the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute.
“A major storm event like the one we are bracing for can inundate the facilities with more water than the open-air ponds can handle,” Ragan Whitlock, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group, said in an email Tuesday. “We are extremely concerned about the potential impacts Hurricane Ian may have on phosphate facilities around the state,” Whitlock added.
A leak in March 2021 at a stack called Piney Point resulted in the release of an estimated 215 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay, causing massive fish kills. State officials, overseen by a court-appointed receiver, are working with a $100 million appropriation to shut down that long-troubled location.
Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall in southwest Florida on Wednesday before cutting through the state, close to many of the gypsum stacks.
More than 17K customers affected by Florida power outages, officials say
More than 17,200 customers were affected by power outages in Florida as of early Wednesday, as residents got a preview of Hurricane Ian's force.
The Florida Power and Light Company reported a total of 17,255 outages across several counties, including Broward, which has seen more than 6,700 outages, as well as Miami-Dade, where more than 5,700 outages have been reported, as of around 3: 15 a.m.
Duke Energy reported at least 11 outages in the Tampa area, while the Tampa Electric Company reported 24.
Ian strengthens into Category 4 storm
Hurricane Ian has strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it advances upon Florida's west coast.
As of around 5 a.m., maximum sustained winds were near 140 mph, with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said in an early morning update.
The hurricane was about 75 miles west-southwest of Naples, on the state's Gulf Coast.
Satellite images show Hurricane Ian approaching Florida
Florida faces 'life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding'
Hurricane Ian is "expected to cause life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding" in the Florida Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center warned Wednesday.
As Ian, currently a Category 3 storm, barreled toward Florida's west coast, the center warned in its 2 a.m. update of the storm's potentially deadly impacts.
It said a storm surge warning "means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations."
"This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions," the hurricane center said, urging residents to follow evacuation orders and other instructions from local officials.
How can hurricanes affect Florida’s manatees?
Hurricanes can pose some big challenges to manatees, which are already facing high levels of die-off in Florida.
Though manatees are adapted to extreme weather events in the state, storm surges can bring the mammals far inland, where they can become trapped in unfamiliar territory once water recedes, Patrick Rose, the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club said in a statement.
They can also become stranded when water leaves an area, such as when a hurricane pulls water out of a bay, said Rose, an aquatic biologist, in a 2017 video by the nonprofit organization. Algal blooms and other contamination can also impact their habitats after the hurricane has passed.
In a statement about Hurricane Ian, Rose encouraged residents to keep an eye out for stranded manatees once it is safe to do so, and to report sightings to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Florida’s manatees are dying at alarmingly high rates — a record 1,110 deaths were reported in 2021, according to preliminary numbers from the FWC. They are also contending with issues such as worsening water quality, which has taken a toll on seagrass, the manatees main food source.
Tropical storm-force winds reach coasts of southeast and southwest Florida
Tropical storm-force winds have begun reaching the coasts of southeast and southwest Florida as Hurricane Ian advances toward the state, officials said.
In a 3 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said a WeatherFlow station at Biscayne Bay Light, near the southeastern coast of Florida, measured a sustained wind of 39 mph and a wind gust to 60 mph.
On the southwestern coast of Florida, a WeatherFlow station near Sanibel Island measured a sustained wind of 35 mph and a wind gust to 47 mph.
As of 3 a.m., the storm was about 90 miles southwest of Naples, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.
Blackout in Havana
Florida sports teams make changes ahead of Ian
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s professional sports teams and universities are keeping a close watch on the forecast, and some are making changes as Hurricane Ian approaches.
The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers relocated their football operations to the Miami area Tuesday in preparation for Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The team is expected to practice at the Dolphins’ training complex in Miami Gardens starting Wednesday. So far, there has been no change for the game, which is scheduled for Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Rays were keeping an eye on the hurricane as they opened a three-game series in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning postponed preseason games scheduled to be played at home Wednesday against Carolina and Thursday against Nashville.
In college football, Florida moved its game against Eastern Washington from Saturday to Sunday. Central Florida did the same with its game against SMU. South Florida relocated its Saturday game against East Carolina from Tampa, Florida, to Boca Raton.
No. 23 Florida State and 22nd-ranked Wake Forest, meanwhile, are “closely monitoring” the storm while expecting to play as planned in Tallahassee. And Stetson canceled its home game scheduled for Saturday.
Ian expected to strengthen until making landfall, officials say
Hurricane Ian is still forecast to strengthen until the hurricane makes landfall in Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
In its 2 a.m. update Wednesday, the hurricane center said Ian was forecast to approach the west coast of Florida later Wednesday as "an extremely dangerous major hurricane."
Maximum sustained winds were near 120 mph with higher gusts as of around 2 a.m., the NHC said.
Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida’s west coast
Hurricane Ian was advancing upon Florida’s west coast early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
In its latest update at 2 a.m., the NHC said the center of Ian was expected to approach the west coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area Wednesday morning and move onshore later in the day.
The Category 3 storm was about 95 miles southwest of Naples early Wednesday.
"Ian is moving toward the north-northeast near 10 mph," the hurricane center said. "This general motion with a reduction in forward speed is forecast tonight and Wednesday, followed by a turn toward the north on Thursday."
The center of Ian is forecast to move over central Florida Wednesday night and Thursday morning, before emerging over the western Atlantic by late Thursday, it said.