Ian Targets Central Florida After Leaving Path of Destruction Along Gulf Coast – NBC Chicago


Ian continued to batter Florida Thursday morning after it made landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm Wednesday, bringing “catastrophic” storm surge, winds and flooding as one of the strongest recorded storms to ever hit the state.

The storm has winds of 65 miles per hour and was about 40 miles southeast of Orlando and was moving northeast at a speed of 8 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

The National Hurricane Center said Ian became a tropical storm over land early Thursday and was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day. Ian is forecast to move out of Florida on Thursday and travel north before hitting South Carolina on Friday.

With maximum sustained winds at 150 mph, just 7 mph short of a Category 5 hurricane, Ian made landfall around 3:05 p.m. Wednesday in Cayo Costa, near a portion of the state’s heavily populated Gulf Coast near Fort Myers, the NHC in Miami said.

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States churned across the Florida peninsula, threatening catastrophic flooding inland. Ian’s tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 415 miles, and nearly the entire state was getting drenched.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians had been given mandatory evacuation orders in anticipation of powerful storm surge, high winds and flooding rains from Ian. More than two million power outages were reported throughout the state, according to the PowerOutage.us site.

Watch Live: See where Hurricane Ian is headed next after slamming onshore on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Forecasters had said the area where Ian made landfall could be inundated by a storm surge of up to 18 feet.

“A storm of this magnitude will produce catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge on the Gulf Coast of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Wednesday news conference. “This is a major, major storm.”

In Port Charlotte, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in a hospital even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients — some of whom were on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients were forced into just two because of the damage. Bodine planned to spend the night there in case people injured from the storm arrive needing help.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

Many rushed to board up their homes and move precious belonging up to higher floors before fleeing.

“You can’t do anything about natural disasters,” said Vinod Nair, who drove inland from the Tampa area Tuesday with his wife, son, dog and two kittens seeking a hotel in the tourist district of Orlando. “We live in a high risk zone, so we thought it best to evacuate.”

Law enforcement officials in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. “for life-saving purposes,” saying violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.

“I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell said.

DeSantis said more power outages were expected, and he urged people to prepare for extended outages. He said Florida will receive assistance from several states, including Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and New York.

A hurricane watch was in effect for the Flagler/Volusia County Line to the South Santee River.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for north of Bonita Bach to Indian Pass, Boca Raton to Cape Lookout, North Carolina and Lake Okeechobee.

Pictures: ‘Catastrophic’ Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall in Florida

A storm surge warning was in effect for the middle of Longboat Key southward to Flamingo, the Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the South Santee River and the St. Johns River.

More than 2.5 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders, in Hillsborough, Lee and other counties.

NBC’s Sam Brock reports from Tampa as residents evacuate the city.

DeSantis activated the state’s National Guard ahead of the storm’s expected impact this week. The governor’s declaration frees up emergency protective funding to address potential damage from storm surge, flooding, dangerous winds and other weather conditions throughout the state.

Florida’s west coast is bracing for impact from what’s being called a “life-threatening storm” as Hurricane Ian strengthened to a dangerous Category 4 hurricane

Florida Power & Light was preparing more than 13,000 workers to assist with their response to Hurricane Ian, company officials said. The power company said they were pre-positioning workers and supplies to respond to any outages from the hurricane.

Although South Florida didn’t take a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, severe weather and flooding were expected throughout the area over the next couple days.

At least two people were hospitalized Tuesday night after a tornado barrelled through Delray Beach, but there were no serious injuries, officials said.

Over 30 people were evacuated from the Kings Point apartment complex after the tornado tore the roof off of the building, fire officials said.

There were overturned cars, large tree branches and trunks scattered about and portions of the building were gutted.

One person called 911 after the roof collapsed and left her stuck in a bathroom, Palm Beach Fire Rescue said. Firefighters were able to go in and rescue her.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county is expecting between three and eight inches of rainfall by Thursday with a risk of two to four feet of storm surge in the southern parts of the county

In Hialeah, residents at Holiday Acres Mobile Home Park woke up to flooded streets Wednesday morning.

Resident Esmeralda Rodriguez said the water has already receded and the situation looked better than the night before. She’s lived in this mobile home since 1996 and says high water levels after a storm aren’t unusual around here.

“I’m used to this … the water comes and goes,” she said. “But thank God we are alive and that’s what matters most.”

Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo said mobile home park streets are private roads and are not under the city’s jurisdiction, creating a complicated scenario for residents.

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