Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida with catastrophic strength: Live updates

Published September 28, 2022 at 12:03 PM EDT
Hurricane Ian satellite image
CIRA/NOAA
Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm with sustained winds over 150 mph, made landfall Wednesday afternoon in southwest Florida's Lee County.

Ian has made landfall in southwest Florida's Lee County after it strengthened into a brutal, historic-sized Category 4 storm, with top winds of 150 mph — just shy of the most dangerous Category 5 status — and a threat of a surge of up to 18 feet in the Fort Myers area. The National Hurricane Center is imploring people to go inside and stay there.

Here's what we're following:

Local updates: The latest from Miami; The latest from Tampa Bay

Stay informed while conserving your phone battery and data usage, visit NPR's text-only site.

Right now, stations all across Florida are serving their community with vital information during this crisis, and more stations are pitching in as the storm moves up the coast. Reporters across the NPR Network provide news that serves as a lifeline to affected communities during disasters and beyond. Your donation makes a difference. Can you make a contribution?

Our live coverage has ended for the day.

Storm updates

Fort Myers and Naples implement citywide curfews

Posted September 28, 2022 at 6:01 PM EDT

Fort Myers and Naples have ordered citywide curfews in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

In the Fort Meyers announcement, the police department says the emergency curfew will be in effect beginning at 6 p.m. local time for the next 48 hours.

It says the curfew is to “protect and safeguard the health, safety and welfare of residents, visitors and first responders.”

The Naples Police Department don't specify a timeframe for the city's curfew; it says it is "effective immediately until further notice."

Storm updates

Hurricane Ian makes 'mainland' landfall in southwest Florida

Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Ian has made "mainland" landfall south of Punta Gorda near Pirate Harbor. Maximum sustained winds at this landfall are estimated at 145 mph.

Earlier this afternoon, at about 3:10 p.m. ET, Ian first made U.S. landfall near the island of Cayo Costa, according to the NHC.

The storm remains big and powerful. In Cape Coral – to the south -- sustained winds have been measured at 112 mph (that’s category 3 strength).

Florida's coast is also seeing massive storm surge. The NHC warns that the stretch of coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach could see storm surge of up to 18 feet if peak surge happens at the same time as high tide.

For the record books

Ian is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane by wind speed in U.S. history

Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
Gusts from Hurricane Ian hit in Punta Gorda, Florida on September 28, 2022.
Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Gusts from Hurricane Ian hit in Punta Gorda, Fla., on Wednesday.

Hurricane Ian is one of the strongest hurricanes by wind speed that’s ever made landfall in recorded U.S. history.

Data shared by meteorologist Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University shows Ian tied for fifth place among hurricanes by landfall wind speed.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm came ashore Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa with sustained winds of 150 mph.

Other recent storms with record wind speeds are Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Michael, which took the fourth spot for strongest hurricane by landfall wind speed when it came ashore in 2018.

The strongest hurricane by recorded wind speed was the Labor Day storm of 1935, which registered 185 mph at landfall, according to Klotzbach's data.

Power outages

More than 1 million Florida electric customers don’t have power

Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:58 PM EDT

Hurricane Ian has started knocking out the lights.

More than 1 million Florida electricity customers didn’t have power as of late afternoon Wednesday, according to the website poweroutage.us.

Ian made landfall in Lee County with sustained winds of 150 mph, and state officials had warned residents that the powerful storm would likely result in widespread power outages.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state had around 42,000 crew members on standby to help restore power when the conditions were safe.

Tragedy at sea

More than 20 are missing as a boat carrying migrants sinks off the Florida coast

Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:56 PM EDT

Authorities are searching for at least 20 people after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Florida, the U.S. Border Patrol said Wednesday afternoon.

The chief Border Patrol agent in Miami, Walter Slosar, says four Cuban migrants swam to shore on Stock Island, near Key West, after their boat sank as Hurricane Ian churned through the region. Slosar said on Twitter that the Coast Guard is searching for 23 more people.

The Coast Guard later tweeted that crews had rescued three people at sea about 2 miles south of the Florida Keys. They were brought to a local hospital for symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration.

The dangerous eyewall of Hurricane Ian passed west of the Keys before making landfall in southwest Florida with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.

Immigration authorities have seen a surge in the number of apprehensions at sea, as thousands of migrants from Cuba, Haiti and elsewhere have boarded flimsy boats in a desperate attempt to reach the U.S. As the number of people fleeing by boat has risen, the number of tragedies has climbed as well.

Member Station Reports
From WLRN in Miami

Flamingo déjà vu

Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:40 PM EDT

In a repeat of one of the most iconic images from 1992's Hurricane Andrew, staff at the Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Fla., have shared a photograph of their flamingos hunkering down in a bathroom as Hurricane Ian approached.

This image is strikingly similar to one shared when zookeepers at ZooMiami — then Miami Metrozoo — scrambled to create a hurricane shelter for their flamingos in a restroom after the storm demolished their habitat.

On the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, award-winning photographer Ron Magill spoke to WLRN about that memorable photograph.

For the latest from the Miami-Dade area, head to WLRN.

Evacuations

Fifteen Florida hospitals and 130 long-term care facilities are evacuated

Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:10 PM EDT

Roughly 350 patients in 15 Florida hospitals under threat from Hurricane Ian have been evacuated as of Wednesday afternoon, state officials said.

Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration Simone Marstiller also reported that 3,508 residents had been evacuated from 40 nursing homes and 3,012 residents had been evacuated from 91 assisted-living facilities.

In a media briefing, Marstiller said the administration was working with partner agencies and organizations to make the transition as smooth as possible for residents.

“Our health facility reporting system is also used to find where there are vacancies in other facilities,” she said. “Many of these nursing homes, in particular, have sister facilities elsewhere in the state, so it makes that kind of transfer a lot easier and less stressful on the individuals who have to change their environment.”

Marstiller said officials were also working to ensure that health care facilities maintained appropriate temperatures and safe conditions for patients and residents throughout Hurricane Ian.

Storm updates

Hurricane Ian officially makes landfall in southwest Florida

Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:19 PM EDT

The eye of Hurricane Ian has come ashore near Cayo Costa, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has sustained winds of 150 mph – which is a major category 4 hurricane.

The catastrophic storm has lashed southwest Florida all day long, bringing non-stop winds and a torrent of waters flooding in from the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the eye of Ian has officially come ashore, it will continue to smack the region for hours before it makes its way slowly inland at just 9 mph.

Unrelenting and devastating floodwaters continue to pummel Naples, up through Fort Myers, the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, and into Charlotte County. Photos and videos on Twitter show waters at or above roofs in some areas. Cars have floated away, roofs have ripped off and some houses have lifted off their foundations. The hurricane’s outer bands continue to fling tornadoes which are on the ground for brief periods of time.

An extreme wind warning remains in effect for most of southwest Florida.

As of now, more than 800,000 homes and businesses in Florida are without power.

Ian joins a rare club. Only four hurricanes have hit the continental United States with winds greater than 155 mph.

Toughing it out

Hurricane or no, Lois Bastien is going for a run

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:41 PM EDT
Lois Bastien, 86, jogs in the Sunset Palm community of St. Petersburg Florida before Hurricane Ian hits the area on Wednesday. Bastien hasn't missed a day of jogging 1.5 miles in 42 years. Carlos Osorio for NPR
Carlos Osorio
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for NPR
Lois Bastien, 86, jogs in the Sunset Palm community of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday before Hurricane Ian's arrival. Bastien hasn't missed a day of jogging 1.5 miles in 42 years.

Hurricane Ian didn't keep 86-year-old Lois Bastien, who lives outside St. Petersburg, Fla., from her daily run. She had a record to keep: Every single day for the last 42 years, Bastien has run at least one mile.

"I decided I'd wait to daylight because things will blow, even wires will blow down," she says. "But then when it got to be daylight, it started raining pretty hard!" Bastien says, examining her soaked sneakers.

As she sped 1.5 miles through the waterlogged streets of the Sunset Palm retirement community, Bastien's boyfriend, Richard Dawley, trailed behind in his car.

"All I'm doing is I'm following her to make sure nothing happens to her. Power lines down or whatever it could be. I want to make dang sure she gets home safely," Dawley told NPR.

Maybe a treadmill run tomorrow?

"I'm not sure I'd like to do that, that feels like cheating," Bastien says and laughs. "Tomorrow might be the end of my streak."

Member Station Reports
From WLRN in Miami

Footage shows the storm surge in Fort Myers Beach

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:30 PM EDT

Dramatic footage from Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach shows the storm surge and hurricane-force winds as Ian makes landfall in the immediate area.

As the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes shared, a camera 6 feet off the ground in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., gives a rare first-person view of Hurricane Ian approaching landfall.

For the latest from the Miami-Dade area, head to WLRN.

Member Station Reports
From WUSF in Tampa Bay

Tampa mayor tells residents to remain vigilant, it's the 'calm before the storm'

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:28 PM EDT

As Hurricane Ian approached southwest Florida, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor asked people to remain vigilant, saying, "we're not out of the woods yet."

“You know, it may be calm outside, we've seen the waters recede in Tampa Bay, some people are out taking the photographs along Bayshore (Boulevard). But that is the calm before the storm,” she said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

"We're still going to see, more than likely, unprecedented flooding in our area with 18 to 20 inches of rain water coming in later this evening. And we're also going to have tropical storm force winds and possibly Category 1 hurricane winds here in the Tampa Bay area."

Castor warned of downed trees, flooding and power outages — and told people if they haven't evacuated by now, they should stay where they are.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor urged people not to drive through flooded streets, saying that most vehicles will be flooded by as little as 6 inches of standing water.

O’Connor also said the city is enhancing penalties for those charged with property crimes during the storm, pointing to two people arrested Tuesday night outside an IKEA furniture store.

“They had numerous burglary tools in their possession, walkie-talkies, flashlights, it appeared they were definitely planning on doing something at the IKEA,” she said. “They were charged accordingly.”

For the latest from the Tampa Bay area, head to WUSF.

Hurricane history

Category 5 hurricanes are rare in the U.S. There have only been 4 in its history

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:23 PM EDT

Ian is just shy of a Category 5 storm as it inches closer to official landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast. If its winds increase even a little, that would put it in an exclusively destructive club of storms that pack winds of 157 mph or more. So far, only four storms have been recorded at such an intensity as they made landfall in the continental U.S. — three in Florida and one in Mississippi.

The National Hurricane Centerdescribes Category 5 storms like this: "Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."

Although Category 5 storms are by definition the strongest, hurricanes such as Katrina, which made landfall near New Orleans as a Category 3 in 2005, and Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 in 2017, have often been more devastating in loss of life and financial impact.

Here's a look at four storms that hit the U.S. as a Category 5:

1935 Labor Day Hurricane
Landfall: Florida Keys on Sept. 2, 1935
Deaths: 409 people
Damage: The storm cut a 40-mile-wide swath from Key Largo to just north of Marathon. Most structures in the affected area were obliterated and the Keys were inundated with 15 to 20 foot storm surge.

Hurricane Camille
Landfall: Mississippi on Aug. 17, 1969
Deaths: More than 250 people in multiple states
Damage: Across southeast U.S. all the way to Virginia. Most of the damage was from fallen trees and power lines, with coastal destruction due to storm surge.

Hurricane Andrew
Landfall: Miami on Aug. 24, 1992
Deaths: 23 people
Damage: More than 50,000 homes were destroyed and an estimated $26 billion in damage. At the time it was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

Hurricane Michael
Landfall: Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, 2018
Deaths: 8 direct deaths
Damage: Wind and storm surge caused catastrophic damage, particularly in the Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach areas.

Read more here.

Gas prices

Biden warns energy companies not to use Ian as an excuse to hike prices

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:15 PM EDT

President Biden is warning the oil and gas industry not to raise prices on consumers impacted by Hurricane Ian.

“Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people,” he said. “America is watching — the industry should do the right thing.”

The storm, which was a Category 4 hurricane as of Wednesday afternoon, would only have a brief, small impact on production, the president suggested.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was scheduled to visit FEMA headquarters on Thursday to receive a briefing on federal response efforts related to Hurricane Ian.

Earlier on Thursday, the administration said FEMA had pre-staged 110,000 gallons of fuel and 18,000 pounds of propane across the impacted region and readied generators that could be used to help power critical infrastructure.

Safety tips

How to prepare for and stay safe during a power outage

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:11 PM EDT
A tree branch and other debris litters a rainy street.
Gerardo Mora
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Getty Images
Debris litters a street in a neighborhood of St. Pete Beach as the winds from Hurricane Ian arrive in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday.

Authorities have warned that Hurricane Ian will bring significant power outages to Florida.

More than 316,000 electric customers in the state had lost power as of just before 2 p.m. ET, before the storm officially made landfall, according to a tracker from poweroutage.us.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a briefing early Wednesday afternoon that "not every power outage will be created equal across the state in the next few days."

He stressed that a storm of this magnitude can not only knock down power lines, which can be repaired, but also uproot infrastructure in a way that requires restoration.

Crews will go out to assess the damage, and go looking for people who may be in harm's way, as as the storm passes and it's safe to do so, DeSantis added.

Here are some of the resources you can use to stay informed as the storm progresses.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to prepare for a power outage. FEMA recommends the following tips:

  • Find alternate power sources, like batteries and portable chargers or power banks, to use when the power goes out. Make sure each member of the household has their own flashlight — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends battery-powered flashlights and lanterns as opposed to candles and gas torches, to minimize fire risk.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. Also, install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations throughout your home to alert you to possible carbon monoxide poisoning (more on that below).
  • Prepare food and know how to store it. FEMA advises maintaining several days' supply of nonperishable food and water, and keeping your fridge and freezer closed. It says a fridge will keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours — you can use a thermometer to double check, and should toss the food out if the temperature reaches 40 degrees or higher.
  • Know your medical needs and make a power outage plan for any medical devices and refrigerated medicines. Ask your doctor for guidance about life-critical medications, including how long certain medications can be stored at higher-than-recommended temperatures.

After the storm passes you'll probably want to haul out your portable generator, if you have one.
But don't do so before reading up on safety tips — using them improperly can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal after just a few minutes (and kills some 85 people each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC).

In fact, after Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana in 2020, data revealed that more people died from carbon monoxide poisoning than the storm itself.

Here's what you should and shouldn't do when it comes to operating a portable generator safely, according to the CPSC:

  • Never use the generator inside a home, garage, basement or shed (even if the windows are open).
  • Only use a generator outside, placed at least 20 feet away from your home and directed so that the exhaust goes away from your home and any other buildings someone could enter. A porch is still considered too close. Any windows and doors in the path of the exhaust should remain closed.
  • Read the labels, instructions and warnings on the generator and in the owner's manual. You can also watch a CPSC public service announcement on generator safety in English and Spanish.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms on each level of your home and outside separate sleeping areas. If any go off, get outside immediately before calling 911.
  • Recognize the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
  • And, if you're going to be buying or replacing a portable generator anytime soon, look for one with a carbon monoxide shut-off safety feature. They're designed to turn off automatically when high levels of CO are present.
Before the storm

Here's what Florida's Lee County is telling its residents as Ian nears

Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:03 PM EDT

Emergency management services in Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, has ordered residents to shelter in place as Hurricane Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida.

Lee Country Emergency Management said in a statementthat residents should stay inside until the storm passes and first responders can make sure its safe to venture outside. Evacuation is no longer an option.

The category 4 storm's high winds could produce destructive waves and storm surge as high as 16 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach.

According to the statement, residents should seek refuge in an interior room in the home, putting as many walls between them and the outdoors. People should stay away from windows and skylights, and beware of calm conditions when the eye of the storm passes over.

The county noted that the National Hurricane Center warned of these conditions:

• Catastrophic wind damage is expected beginning in the next few hours.

• Structural damage to sturdy buildings, with some complete roof and wall failures.

• Heavy rainfall will continue to spread across the county and will intensify, resulting potentially lifethreatening flooding.

• Large trees snapped or uprooted and many roads impassable from trees and debris.

• Destruction of mobile homes and manufactured homes.

• Widespread power outages.

• Tornados also are possible.

Preparing for the worst

Water and other services are halted ahead of Hurricane Ian’s worst impacts

Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:49 PM EDT

Officials in Venice, Fla., turned off the city’s drinking water Tuesday night, looking to protect its water plant and other infrastructure from Hurricane Ian's damaging effects. Customers were told to prepare for the outage by filling jugs and bathtubs with water.

“When the storm's windspeeds drop below 35mph, staff will look for leaks” and work to restore service, the city said.

Other utilities in Sarasota County, which sits between Fort Myers and Tampa, are taking similar steps. Once the water is turned back on, they say, customers will need to boil water for 48 hours to be sure it’s safe.

911 and emergency services were also halted on Wednesday, with officials saying winds topping 45 mph made it too dangerous for responders' vehicles to travel.

Storm effects

Hurricane Ian sucked water away from Florida's coast as it moved north

Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:37 PM EDT
People walk along the mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay ahead of Hurricane Ian making landfall on September 28, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
Bryan R. Smith
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AFP via Getty Images
People walk along the mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay ahead of Hurricane Ian.

Hurricane Ian delivered an eerie omen to coastal Florida residents Wednesday morning as the powerful storm's winds pulled massive amounts of water away from beaches and shorelines, exposing the seabed that's normally covered by feet of ocean water.

Spectators and photographers gaped at the suddenly remade coastlines — but the water is expected to return with a vengeance: The latest storm surge estimates predict up to 12-18 feet of water above ground level hitting an area from Englewood south to Bonita Beach, the National Hurricane Center said.

"IMPORTANT NOTE: The water WILL come back," the National Weather Service office in Tampa said via Twitter, as it urged people not to walk out to explore areas where water has receded.

When it does arrive, the high water "will likely be accompanied by large and destructive waves," the NHC said.

Read more on why hurricanes pull water from shorelines.

Before the storm

Some Florida cities are suspending municipal services in preparation for the storm

Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:25 PM EDT
A police patrol drives around the bay of St. Pete Beach as the winds from Hurricane Ian arrive on September 28, 2022 in St. Pete Beach, Florida.
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
A police patrol drives around the bay of St. Pete Beach as the winds from Hurricane Ian arrive on September 28, 2022 in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Some Florida cities are preemptively shuttering municipal services ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to produce dangerous weather conditions across the peninsula.

Many had mandatory evacuation notices, though officials in some areas warned residents who stayed behind not to try to leave Thursday morning, as the hurricane was by then too close to make travel safe.

Cape Coral, on Florida’s southwestern coast, suspended emergency services and closed city offices, while Lee County canceled school. Fort Myers called off all city meetings and set up shelters for residents.

Sarasota County canceled trash collection and shut off water services on Siesta and Casey keys. In Collier County, which was also bracing to be struck by Ian, transit services were suspended on Wednesday.

Even areas not in immediate danger from Hurricane Ian were preparing for the possible impacts of the storm.

Orlando closed city hall, suspended garbage pick-up and closed public schools and libraries. Miami-Dade County, on Florida’s southeastern coast, also shut its public schools.

Dispatches from the scene

Hurricane hunter pilots are shocked by what they've seen from Ian

Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:23 PM EDT

Hurricane hunter pilots are accustomed to experiencing chaotic flying conditions — which makes the stunned reports of those who have flow into the center of Hurricane Ian so noteworthy.

Nick Underwood, who flew into Ian on NOAA’s Kermit aircraft, said the trip was “the worst I’ve ever been on.”

“I’ve never seen so much lightning in an eye,” he wrote on Twitter. He posted an image as light as day — but the light comes from lightning, because the picture was taken at night. He and his colleagues were dropping drones to take measurements of the storm.

“Absolutely wild,” Underwood added. “I’m glad we only did one pass.”

Another flight, a weather reconnaissance mission with the Air Force Reserve, also reported extremely chaotic flight conditions. Dave Malkoff from The Weather Channel was on the plane.

“We hit hail, massive turbulence in the eye wall that dropped us 1000+ feet,” Malkoff tweeted. “It was NOT even calm inside the eye.”

Malkoff shared images of what appeared to be hail damage on the plane's nose, and added that the Air Force Reserve pilot described this flight as the “worst ever.”

Resources

Here are ways you can stay informed about Hurricane Ian

Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:21 PM EDT

As Hurricane Ian comes ashore, officials are urging people to get inside and prepare to ride it out.

Here are some of the places you can check for more information as the storm progresses:

Sign up for alerts

You can sign up for real-time alerts by making sure your phone is set to receive emergency alerts from local, state and federal public safety authorities, as well as downloading the FEMA app.

Get state and local updates

You can follow the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Twitterand Facebook, as well as the websites and social media pages of your county government and emergency management.

You can also monitor the social media accounts of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration has this handy list of Hurricane Ian resources (including forecasts, evacuation and shelter information, maps, accounts to follow and safety resources) all on one webpage.

Check NPR and your local station

If you want to stay informed while conserving your phone battery and data usage, visit NPR's text-only site at http://text.npr.org.

Here's how you can keep up with your local station:

Tampa Bay (WUSF)

Miami (WLRN)

Fort Myers (WGCU)

Orlando (WMFE)

Jacksonville (WJCT)

Storm updates

A new satellite image clarifies where Hurricane Ian is headed

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:58 PM EDT

A new satellite image from the University of Wisconsin-Madison posted this morning offers more clarification as to where exactly Hurricane Ian may hit when it makes landfall on coastal Florida near Fort Myers.

The image comes from the university's NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. The institute shared the image on Twitter, offering a better look at Ian's size as it approaches the Florida coastline.

The outer eyewall of Ian has reached Florida's Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The storm has sustained winds of 155 mph — a Category 4 hurricane.

Member Station Reports
From WUSF in Tampa Bay

'The worst is not yet here': Hillsborough, Pinellas county officials warn residents to stay sheltered

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:50 PM EDT

The “worst is not yet here,” Pinellas county officials said in an email Wednesday morning. “Our area could experience wind speeds up to 110 miles per hour, storm surge and heavy rain through Thursday morning.

Dangers remain until Ian has passed through the state.

“As the storm moves slowly across Florida, conditions in the Tampa Bay area are expected to worsen throughout the day, even if the storm remains to the south, Pinellas officials said.

Flash flooding and strengthening winds have combined to create hazards making it no longer safe to be on the road, Hillsborough officials said in an email Wednesday morning.

Residents are also urged to continue sheltering. Do not attempt to relocate to a county emergency shelter or any other location.

“Breaks in the weather do not mean the storm has passed,” Pinellas officials said.

Emergency officials will announce when shelter-in-place and evacuation orders are lifted.

Officials included these reminders:

  • If you do experience an emergency, call 911 and report the issue. Emergency crews will respond as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • If there is a need to take cover, find an interior room away from windows and skylights. Bring water into your safe room in case you cannot exit due to storm debris.
  • If flooding is a threat, turn off electricity at the main breaker.
  • Keep cellphones and electronic devices charged in case of power loss. Checking in with family through texting or social media can be more reliable than phone service.
  • In case of electricity loss, flashlights or chemical sticks are safer to use than candles.
  • Keep storm shutters and windows closed until the storm has completely passed.
  • Once storm conditions subside, do not leave your home until officials announce that it is safe.
  • Emergency responders, equipment, and partner agencies are in place and ready to respond.

For the latest from the Tampa Bay area, head to WUSF.

Member Station Reports
From WLRN in Miami

Miami International Airport remains open but more than 200 departures canceled

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT

According to a statement from Greg Chin, communications director for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department:

"MIA is outside of the cone of concern for Hurricane Ian and will remain open. 206 arrivals and 214 departures have been canceled at MIA today due to the hurricane, affecting flights between MIA and cities across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

"Travelers are urged to confirm the status of their flight before coming to MIA, to avoid congestion at the airport, and since rebooking is more easily done online from their home or hotel room."

Key West International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, and Tampa International Airport are all closed to the public.

For the latest from the Miami-Dade area, head to WLRN.

Storm updates

The eyewall of Hurricane Ian reaches southwest Florida

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:31 PM EDT

The outer eyewall of Hurricane Ian has reached Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Lee County, Fla.

In an update, the National Hurricane Center says sustained winds on Sanibel have reached 71 mph (just shy of hurricane strength) and higher gusts. Webcams on the ritzy island show water flooding over some roads. Conditions will continue to rapidly deteriorate as the storm roars ashore.

The hurricane has slowed to nine mph. A slower storm means people will feel the effects of the storm longer.

Hurricane Ian still has sustained winds of 155 mph – which is a category four "major hurricane."

Briefing

The National Hurricane Center implores Floridians to get inside and stay there

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:26 PM EDT

At a briefing just before noon ET, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center painted a grim picture of the threat posed by Hurricane Ian and warned people in high-risk areas to take it seriously.

"A lot has happened overnight and early this morning, and unfortunately, none of it is good news," Jamie Rhome said by way of opening remarks.

Most urgently, he pointed to the eyewall about to move onshore and urged people in the areas of Sanibel, Cape Coral and Boca Grande to "get into your home and brace for a period of sustained, damaging, potentially devastating winds." It's too late to evacuate or go outside at this point, he added.

Bands of heavy rain are starting to impact portions of Tampa and the I-4 corridor, so Rhome is urging people traveling along that route to get to their final destination and stay put as the system comes ashore.

He pointed to the areas along the coastline where the storm surge will be highest, such as a predicted 12 to 18 feet in the Charlotte Harbor area.

"I've been around for a long time, these are big numbers," Rhome said. "I haven't seen numbers like this many times in my career."

Rhome warned that the danger isn't limited to that one region, adding that people in northeast Florida along the St. Johns River and those along the coast in Georgia and parts of South Carolina should think about taking action as well. That's because the storm is expected to move slowly ("I think the word 'crawls' might be better") across the state before turning and moving north.

Areas like Savannah and Charleston are already facing a moderate flood risk, he noted.

Rhome stressed that while wind and storm surge pose huge threats, heavy rains are not something to take lightly either. He said a wide swath of the state is facing some 10 to 15 inches of rain — in areas with low elevation and at the end of Florida's rainy season, meaning flood potential is high.

Those rains can produce flash flooding and impassable roads, he said, again urging people to remain inside even after the storm seems to have passed.

"We lose so many people after a storm because they get out and wander about, they drive into flooded roads, power lines might be down," he added. "I know you want to see what happened, I know you want to see if your house, your neighborhood is okay, but please stay inside until conditions allow you to safely move about."

You can watch the full briefing, which lasted just under 10 minutes, here:

Context

Florida's population has skyrocketed. That could make Hurricane Ian more destructive

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:08 PM EDT
Cars drive down a highway with city buildings in the distance.
Ricardo Arduengo
/
AFP via Getty Images
Eastbound traffic crowds I-275 as people evacuate before the arrival of Hurricane Ian in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

No state in the eastern U.S. has grown faster in recent years than Florida, which has added nearly 3 million residents since 2010.

Now, the state is yet again in the path of a major hurricane, with Hurricane Ian expected to make landfall on Florida's western coast Wednesday. It is now classified as a Category 4 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tampa, Fort Myers and Sarasota — all among the state's fastest-growing metropolitan areas — are within the range of predicted paths, the NHC said. Ian may bring a "life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding in the Florida peninsula," the hurricane center said in its 5 a.m. ET update.

More people — and more buildings to house them, often in coastal areas — mean that a major hurricane could become more costly and destructive.

The population boom in hurricane-prone Florida is an example of the "expanding bullseye effect," said Stephen Strader, a professor at Villanova University who studies how human environments are vulnerable to natural disasters.

Imagine an archer taking aim at a target, he explained. If the bullseye is very small, the odds of the archer hitting it are low. But as the target grows, the archer's odds improve.

"Instead of an arrow, we have hazard events like hurricanes and tornadoes. Instead of having targets, we are the targets — our cities, our developed areas. And nowhere is that more readily seen than along our coastlines," Strader said.

Read more here.

Before the storm

In some parts of southwestern Florida, it’s already too late to evacuate

Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT
Danny Aller and his wife Karen board up windows as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian in Indian Shores, 25 miles West of Tampa, Florida on September 26, 2022.
Ricardo Arduengo
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AFP via Getty Images
Danny Aller and his wife Karen board up windows as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian in Indian Shores, Fla., on Monday.

Hurricane Ian is projected to hit Florida this afternoon, but state officials say it’s already too late to evacuate from some areas in the southwestern part of the state that are projected to face the most severe effects of the storm.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a briefing Wednesday morning that the highest-risk regions stretch from Collier County to Sarasota County, with the storm expected to make landfall in Charlotte County.

“If you are in any of those counties, it’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” he said. “It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm.”

DeSantis urged residents to treat the storm as if a tornado were approaching their home.

Municipal officials up and down the coast were asking residents to shelter in place, and city services were already suspended in some areas.

Cape Coral said normal operations would resume after winds dipped below 45 mph and that city officials would have to prioritize 911 calls and respond when it was safe. Lee County said it would connect 911 callers with medical staff if high winds prevented first responders from attending to the emergency in person.

Several bridges had also been closed, including the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that spans Tampa Bay.

Officials were urging residents in central and northeastern Florida to prepare to either evacuate or take shelter in response to the approaching storm.

Storm updates

The eye of dangerous category 4 Hurricane Ian nears southwest Florida

Posted September 28, 2022 at 11:45 AM EDT

The National Hurricane Center says in its 11 a.m. advisory that Ian remains a dangerous category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph. This remains 2 mph shy of category 5 status.

The eye of the storm is expected to come ashore in the 2 to 3 p.m ET timeframe – somewhere in Charlotte or Lee counties.

The storm surge has begun in southwest Florida. In Naples, it’s at seven feet and rising. To the north in Lee County (Fort Myers) and Charlotte County (Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda) it may get as high as 18 feet. The waves on the barrier islands, such as Pine Island, are growing too. To make matters worse, high tide is happening later this evening. High tide means more water – and higher surge.

While all of the attention is focused on the coast, we should remember this storm is big and powerful and expected to retain its hurricane strength far inland.

As of now, the storm is expected to cross Florida, where a hurricane warning is now in effect on the east coast (from Sebastian Inlet north to the Volusia/Flagler County line). It's forecast to enter the Atlantic Ocean and then move north towards the Georgia/South Carolina line and strike as a tropical storm, perhaps on Friday. The NHC has issued a storm surge warning in many of those areas too.