‘The storm is here’: Ian threatens to make landfall as Category 5 in southwest FL
Hurricane expected to hit Charlotte County on Florida’s west coast Wednesday
Ian, a category 4 Hurricane, is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon. (National Hurricane Center map on Sept. 28, 2022)
Hurricane Ian, a catastrophic Category 4 storm overnight, now threatens to make landfall as a Category 5 storm at the Charlotte County coast in southwest Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and state emergency officials said at an early morning Wednesday news conference.
Ian is “knocking on the door of a Category 5,” DeSantis said.
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Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said the storm will make landfall later this afternoon.
“The storm is here. It is imminent,” Guthrie said.
“I can tell you it’s a CAT 4 hurricane, nearly a CAT 5,” Guthrie said. “I know all of the emergency management directors in South Florida very well. Combined, they have over 200 years of experience. They’re preparing – and they’re expecting a CAT 5.”
In a 7 a.m. Wednesday advisory, the National Hurricane Center reported that Ian was spotted about 65 miles west south-west of Naples, in Collier County.
“It is gonna have major, major impacts — in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding — so this is gonna be a nasty, nasty day, two days,” DeSantis said Wednesday morning.
The center of Ian is expected to approach the west coast of Florida this morning and move onshore later today, according to the hurricane center. The center is forecast to move over central Florida tonight and Thursday morning and emerge over the western Atlantic by late Thursday. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 155 mph with higher gusts, according to the data.
Earlier, Tampa Bay was the focus of Ian, but the storm went south later, and further down the coast.
DeSantis announced several bridge closures in the southwest Florida area, including the Sunshine Skyway connecting to St. Petersburg in the Tampa Bay area. He also noted that there were tornado warnings overnight and there have been 40,000 reported power outages so far.
He noted that the storm will bring catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surges, with the highest risk ranging from Collier County to Sarasota County as it makes landfall in Charlotte County.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts peak storm surges of 12 to 18 feet in the Charlotte Harbor area.
“If you are in any of those counties, it’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” DeSantis said. “It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm.”
Guthrie and DeSantis urged those in the immediate path of the hurricane to treat the storm as if it’s a tornado.
“Get to an interior room free of windows. Have stuff to be able to protect your head and body from the debris, such as a blanket, sleeping bag, mattress or even potentially helmets,” Guthrie said.
Officials issued other advice and safety measures during the storm: Don’t operate a generator indoors, avoid standing water and downed power lines and don’t drive through flooded streets.
The Tampa Bay area is still forecasting between four to six feet of storm surge.
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