2.5M Ordered to Evacuate as Ian Approaches Florida

NHC warns of 'catastrophic' winds, flooding from Hurricane Ian
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2022 8:32 PM CDT
2.5M Ordered to Evacuate as Ian Approaches Florida
Traffic builds along Interstate 4 in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, as Hurricane Ian approaches.   (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday and left 1 million people without electricity, then churned on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. The National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered "significant wind and storm surge impacts" when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph. Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130 mph approaching the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate, the AP reports. Tropical storm-force winds are expected across the southern peninsula late Tuesday, reaching hurricane-force Wednesday—when the eye is predicted to make landfall

It's not yet clear precisely where Ian will crash ashore. Its exact track could determine how severe the storm surge is for Tampa Bay, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Landfall south of the bay could make the impact "much less bad," McNoldy said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged people to prepare for extended power outages, and to get out of the storm's potential path. "It is a big storm, it is going to kick up a lot of water as it comes in," DeSantis told a news conference in Sarasota, a coastal city that could be hit. "And you’re going to end up with really significant storm surge and you’re going to end up with really significant flood events." DeSantis said most buildings in Florida are strong enough to withstand wind, but the 2.5 million people who have been told to evacuate face the greatest danger from flooding.

Forecasters warned the hurricane will be felt across a large area as it plows across Florida with an anticipated turn northward. The NHC warned of "life-threatening storm surge" and "catastrophic winds and flooding" in a Tuesday update. Ian’s forward movement was expected to slow over the Gulf, enabling the hurricane to grow wider and stronger. The hurricane warning expanded Tuesday to cover roughly 220 miles of Florida's west coast. The area includes Fort Myers as well as Tampa and St. Petersburg, which could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Flash floods were possible across the whole state, and portions of Florida's east coast faced a potential storm surge threat as Ian's bands approach the Atlantic Ocean. Parts of Georgia and South Carolina also could see flooding rains into the weekend. (More Hurricane Ian stories.)

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