Hurricane Ian pounds Florida with ‘extremely dangerous’ rain and wind
Hurricane Ian pummeled Florida after making landfall Wednesday afternoon, bringing life-threatening storm surges to the coast and extreme wind and rain that knocked out power for more than a million people and spurred evacuation orders for some 2.5 million.
“This is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said earlier on Wednesday, urging people in Ian’s path along the Atlantic coast to rush to the safest possible shelter and stay there.
DeSantis said Wednesday evening that the storm surges, which were forecasted to reach up to 18 feet, had likely peaked. “But we know this has been a big storm and has done a lot of damage as it is.”
The hurricane made landfall as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm near Cayo Costa, Fla, according to the National Hurricane Center, and proceeded to sweep over the cities of Naples and Fort Myers, where images and videos showed scenes of devastation throughout the late afternoon and into the evening.
Reports on cable news networks and on social media showed streets turned into rivers, trees knocked down by wind and houses destroyed by the storm.
Flash floods were possible all across Florida, with the storm expected to pound the Orlando area Thursday and exit the state near Daytona Beach. Federal officials said Tuesday that inland flooding was their biggest safety concerns.
Ian is the strongest storm to hit Florida at least since Hurricane Michael in 2018, and will rank among the top five storms to ever hit the Florida peninsula, according to DeSantis.
Officials in southern Florida reported calls of residents who remained stuck in their homes as water levels were rising. “We are getting a significant number of calls of people trapped by water in their homes,” the Collier County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.
More than a million Floridians have been left without power, according to poweroutage.us, which shows more than 10 counties with significant power outages, the worst of them in Lee County, where more than 300,000 residents are without power.
King Point residents leave with their belongings after a tornado spawned from an apparent overnight tornado spawned from Hurricane Ian at Kings Point 55+ community in Delray Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Carline Jean /South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
The National Hurricane Center issued a 5 p.m. update predicting the top winds would fall to 85 mph within 12 hours, down from their peak of 155 mph, making Ian a Category 1 hurricane.
However, Jamie Rhome, acting director of the center, warned the destruction would continue as the storm heads north.
“It will still pack a formidable punch as it moves across the state of Florida along the I-4 corridor in the next couple of days,” Rhome said in a Facebook broadcast.
A spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute told The New York Times that the damage from Hurricane Ian could end up costing anywhere from $20 billion to $40 billion, depending on the storm’s path and strength.
The federal government sent 300 ambulances with medical teams and was ready to truck in 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water once the storm passes.
“We’ll be there to help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida get moving again,” President Biden said Wednesday. “And we’ll be there every step of the way. That’s my absolute commitment to the people of the state of Florida.”
DeSantis has requested Biden grant a major disaster declaration for all 67 of the state’s counties, which would open a range of federal assistance for residents and funding for public infrastructure repairs.
DeSantis and Biden put politics aside Tuesday night and spoke about Hurricane Ian hitting Florida.
“This is about the people of Florida,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday. “This is about two people who wanted to have a conversation on how we can be partners to the governor and his constituents and make sure that we are delivering for the people of Florida.”
Additional reporting from Associated Press