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.
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