Ian Makes Landfall as Massive Category 4 Storm

Tampa area was spared a direct hit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2022 2:48 PM CDT
Updated Sep 28, 2022 4:01 PM CDT
Hurricane Ian Makes Landfall as a Category 4 Storm
Waves crash along the Ballast Point Pier ahead of Hurricane Ian, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

This story has been updated with new developments. Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday in southwest Florida as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the US, swamping city streets with water and smashing trees along the coast. The massive Category 4 storm's center struck Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa, a protected barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers. The massive storm is expected to trigger flooding across a wide area of Florida as it crawls northeastward across the peninsula, dumping flooding rains of 12 to 18 inches across an area including Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville, the AP reports. The storm slammed the coast with 150 mph winds and pushed a wall of storm surge accumulated during its slow march over the Gulf of Mexico.

Ian made landfall more than 100 miles south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing the densely populated Tampa Bay area from its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Officials warned residents that Tampa could still experience powerful winds and up to 20 inches of rain. "Please, please, please be aware that we are not out of danger yet," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. "Flooding is still going to occur." About 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate southwest Florida before the storm hit. Though expected to weaken as it marched inland at about 9 mph Ian's hurricane force winds are likely to be felt well into central Florida.

Before landfall, the center of the storm lingered offshore for hours. Catastrophic storm surges could push 12 to 18 feet of water across more than 250 miles of coastline, from Bonita Beach to Englewood, forecasters warned. "This is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, stressing that people in Ian’s path along the coast should rush to the safest possible shelter and stay there. Off the coast on Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, swirling water flooded streets and was halfway up mailbox posts by mid-morning. Seawater rushed out of Tampa Bay, leaving parts of the muddy bottom exposed, and waves crashed over the end of a wooden pier at Naples. "It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly," DeSantis said. "So please hunker down.”

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Flash floods were possible across all of Florida. Hazards include the polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 billion tons of slightly radioactive waste contained in enormous ponds that could overflow in heavy rains. Forecasters placed roughly 120 miles of central Florida’s east coast under a hurricane warning Wednesday, signaling that Ian may remain a hurricane longer than previously expected as it moves inland. Isolated tornadoes spun off the storm well ahead of landfall. One tornado damaged small planes and a hangar at the North Perry Airport, west of Hollywood along the Atlantic coast. More than 450,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, and Florida Power and Light warned those in Ian’s path to brace for days without power. (More Hurricane Ian stories.)

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