Ian was expected to dump 12 to 18 inches of rain on much of central and northeast Florida, with some locations being hit with as much as 2 feet of rain.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, lashing the region with torrential rain and winds of 150 mph and knocking out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses.
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The “catastrophic” system, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the U.S. in decades, came ashore near Cayo Costa, just west of Fort Myers, around 3 p.m. after strengthening to a powerful Category 4 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.
Hours after landfall, top sustained winds had dropped to 105 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane. Still, storm surges as high as 6 feet were expected on the opposite side of the state, in northeast Florida.
“Our streets are pretty much underwater,” said Mike McNees, the city manager on Marco Island. “The streets, at this point, are indistinguishable from the canals.”
In Fort Myers, Cheryl Berberich told NBC News she looked out of the window of her condo after Ian struck and “saw our car float away.”
“Many cars are floating away here,” said Berberich, who is from Missouri and was stranded in her vacation home after being unable to find a flight home. “Believe it or not, refrigerators are out there floating.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said that some areas have had storm surges as high as 12 feet and that Ian was “battering” southwest Florida. He said he has been in regular contact with President Joe Biden, who approved his request for an emergency declaration days before Ian slammed into the state.
“This is a big one, and I think we all know there’s going to be major, major impacts,” DeSantis said. “We have a long way to go before the storm exits this state.”
With Ian now ashore, authorities in Charlotte County imposed an overnight curfew and ordered everybody but first responders off the roads.
“As soon as it is safe to rescind this order, I will do so,” Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said. “Until that time, the only people that should be out on the roadways after hours are essential workers as they strive to assess and provide assistance to those who received damage caused by the storm.”
Meanwhile, more than 600,000 customers in hardest-hit Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties were without power, and outages affected more than 1.5 million customers across the state, all the way from the Everglades north to Tampa, according to the utility data website PowerOutage.us.
More than 2 million people along Florida’s Gulf Coast had been under evacuation orders.
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Ian was expected to dump 12 to 18 inches of rain on much of central and northeast Florida, with some locations perhaps being hit with as much as 2 feet of rain, the hurricane center said Wednesday.
Early projections had shown Ian on track to hit Tampa, Florida’s third-biggest city, which hadn’t been stuck by a major hurricane since 1921. But the storm’s eastward shift likely spared the densely populated region more serious damage. [NBC News]