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2m people in Florida lose power as hurricane Ian moves inland – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-09-29

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11.42am BST

This live blog is now closed. All the latest updates on hurricane Ian will be in our new blog:

Related: Hurricane Ian latest updates: Florida residents trapped in flooded homes – live

7.16am BST

Summary

The full extent of damage from Hurricane Ian is likely to remain unknown for some hours, with power and communications disrupted in many areas and some emergency responders forced to wait for the return of daylight and safer conditions before beginning a full search and rescue operation.

This blog will now pause, but at 2am Florida time, this is what we know.

  • Ian has weakened to a Category 1 storm as it moves inland but continues to lash the state with torrential rain, with the National Hurricane Centre warning of catastrophic flooding across central Florida.

  • The storm surge flooded a hospital’s lower level emergency room in Port Charlotte, while fierce winds tore part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care unit, forcing staff to move the hospital’s sickest patients to other floors.

  • In coastal Florida, desperate people posted to Facebook and other social sites, pleading for rescue for themselves or loved ones, the Associated Press reported . Some video showed debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves. A coastal sheriff’s office reported that it was getting many calls from people trapped in flooded homes.

  • An estimated 2.2 million customers in Florida are without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

  • Seven people had survived after a boat carrying migrants from Cuba sank near the Florida Keys, officials said, but rescue crews were still searching for an additional twenty people, the Associated Press reported.

  • A Weather Channel meteorologist who has covered more than 90 storms in his career said that he had experienced nothing like Hurricane Ian in over 30 years .

  • The governors of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina all preemptively declared states of emergency, the Associated Press reported.

You can read our full report here

Related: Hurricane Ian: 2m without power as Florida hit with ‘catastrophic’ wind and rain

Updated at 7.21am BST

7.06am BST

Flood risks remain as Ian moves inland

Ian has continued to weaken as it moves inland, with wind speeds dropping to 75mph, but the risk of deadly flooding and storm surges remains. In its 2am update, the National Hurricane Centre said the storm was continuing to move across Florida and was expected to reach the east coast later on Thursday.

6.54am BST

Half the streets in Naples in south-west Florida have been rendered impassable by flooding. The Collier county administration has urged people not to drive to or around the city.

6.31am BST

More than 2.2 million now without power

There are now more than 2.2 million Florida residents without electricity as the storm moves inland.

The Poweroutages.us website, which tracks blackouts across the US, shows that Okeechobee county in central Florida is the latest to be affected, with nearly three-quarters of customers losing power.

Updated at 6.48am BST

6.00am BST

Full extent of damage still unknown

As it passes 1am in Florida, the full extent of damage from Hurricane Ian is likely to remain unknown for some hours, with power and communications disrupted in many areas and some emergency responders forced to wait for the return of daylight and safer conditions before beginning a full search and rescue operation.

While no deaths have yet been reported in the US, Ian killed two people in Cuba and a boat carrying 23 Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West.

The storm was one of the strongest to ever hit the US when it slammed into the Florida coast as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of 150mph winds and a deadly storm surge of up to 18ft.

Winds have since dropped to about 90mph, but the National Hurricane Centre has warned that torrential rains pose risks of catastrophic flooding across central Florida. Storm surges may hit the east coast of the state on Thursday morning as Ian passes over and turns north to threaten Georgia and South Carolina.

The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said earlier on Wednesday that Ian would leave a permanent mark on Florida.

“Pray for people,” DeSantis told reporters. “There’s some storms that really leave an indelible impact … this is going to be one of those historic storms and it’s going to shape the communities in south-west Florida and have a profound impact on our state.

“This is going to be a rough stretch. So we just ask people for their thoughts and their prayers. This is a major, major storm.”

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A fallen tree outside a Cape Coral home on Wednesday night. Photograph: Douglas R Clifford/AP

Updated at 6.01am BST

5.49am BST

All flights to and from Jacksonville airport on Thursday have been cancelled.

4.39am BST

Hospital flooded as winds partially tear roof from ICU

The storm surge has flooded a hospital’s lower level emergency room in Port Charlotte, while fierce winds tore part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care unit, a doctor who works there told AP.

Water gushed down from above 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 at the hospital in case people injured from the storm arrive there needing help.

“The ambulances may be coming soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this point because we’re doubled and tripled up,” she said. “As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters.”

4.21am BST

National Hurricane Centre update

In its 11pm update the National Hurricane Centre said Hurricane Ian was expected to move across central Florida overnight, bringing the risk of catastrophic flooding and damaging winds, before emerging over the western Atlantic late on Thursday and turning north towards the north-eastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

The centre said that winds had weakened to 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm, but Ian was still forecast to be at near hurricane-force when it moved over the east coast of Florida on Thursday morning. The storm is expected to bring between 12 and 20 inches of rain to central Florida, with the risk of “widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and urban flooding”.

Updated at 4.31am BST

4.00am BST

Nasa’s GOES-16 satellite captured this startling footage of intense lightning flickering around the eye of the storm.

3.54am BST

More than 2 million without power

The storm has left more than 2 million people without power, according to Poweroutage.us . The site shows that in Charlotte and DeSoto counties nearly all households were without electricity, while Sarasota and Lee counties were also hard hit.

In Charlotte county, just north of Fort Myers, the sheriff’s office has imposed a curfew from 9pm-6am, while in Lee county all residents have been told to boil water for at least one minute before drinking.

3.33am BST

Ian now a Category 2 storm

Hours after making landfall, Hurricane Ian’s top sustained winds had dropped to 105 mph (170 km/h), making it a Category 2 storm, AP reports.

Ian is expected to weaken further to a tropical storm as it marches inland at about 9 mph (14 km/h). Still, storm surges as high as 6 feet (2 meters) were expected on the opposite side of the state, in north-east Florida. More than 2 million people are now without power, according to Poweroutage.us .

3.18am BST

Satellite imagery shows Ian’s progress

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tweeted this footage of Ian’s devastating arrival on the Florida coast.

2.57am BST

Evening summary

Here’s the evening update on how Florida residents are enduring Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the US.

  • In coastal Florida, desperate people posted to Facebook and other social sites, pleading for rescue for themselves or loved ones, the Associated Press reported . Some video showed debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves. A coastal sheriff’s office reported that it was getting many calls from people trapped in flooded homes.

  • An estimated 1.9 million customers in Florida were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

  • Seven people had survived after a boat carrying migrants from Cuba sank near the Florida Keys, officials said, but rescue crews were still searching for an additional twenty people, the Associated Press reported.

  • A Weather Channel meteorologist who has covered more than 90 storms in his career said that he had experienced nothing like Hurricane Ian in over 30 years .

  • The governors of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina all preemptively declared states of emergency, the Associated Press reported. Forecasters predicted Ian will turn toward those states as a tropical storm, likely dumping more flooding rains into the weekend, after crossing Florida.

My colleagues in Australia will be picking up live coverage for the next few hours, so you can continue to follow along here.

2.57am BST

Fort Myers TV station meteorologist live tweets: ‘Worst hurricane I’ve ever been in’

For the past few hours, journalists at Fort Myers television station WINK have been documenting water flooding into their newsroom building, and their efforts to keep working while staying safe on the second floor of the building.

The water has started to recede, the station’s meteorologist tweeted, but the city is “pitch dark” and the wind is “unbelievably strong”.

The dramatic footage from earlier in the day:

Updated at 3.12am BST

2.42am BST

Measuring Hurricane Ian’s ‘Waffle House Index’

There are many ways to rank the severity of storms in the United States, but one of the favorite measures is the “Waffle House Index,” a measurement of how many of the hardy, reliably open restaurant chain locations have chosen to close in the face of extreme weather.

The Wall Street Journal put Ian’s Waffle House Index at 21 closures.

And on the ground in Florida yesterday, meteorologists knew how to interpret the signs:

Updated at 2.46am BST

2.29am BST

Time lapse footage of a storm surge in Fort Myers Beach

A journalist at a TV station in Michigan used footage from a webcam to capture the storm surge in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

Updated at 2.33am BST

2.27am BST

Meteorologist who has covered 90+ storms says Ian may be the worst

Meteorologist Mike Seidel has worked for the Weather Channel for decades, personally covering more than 90 storms .

He shared dramatic video of Hurricane Ian this evening, writing, “I haven’t experienced anything close to this in over 30 years.”

2.20am BST

Update: three Cuban migrants rescued after boat sinks off Key West, 20 more missing

Three Cubans migrants were rescued from the ocean after their boat sank Wednesday, shortly before Hurricane Ian made landfall in south-western Florida. But officials said that 20 more people from the boat might be missing, the Associated Press reported .

Four Cubans reached Stock Island, just east of Key West, and reported their vessel sank because of inclement weather, US Customs and Border Protection chief patrol agent Walter N Slosar said in a post on Twitter .

The US Coast Guard initiated a search for 23 people and managed to find three more survivors about 2 miles (3 km) south of the island chain, officials said.

Air crews continued to search for the remaining people.

Updated at 2.32am BST

1.55am BST

“Terrifying and the worst is yet to come.”

The reports coming in from Florida residents experiencing Hurricane Ian are striking. From the Associated Press :

Mark Pritchett stepped outside his home in Venice around the time the hurricane churned ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the south. He called it “terrifying.”

“I literally couldn’t stand against the wind,” Pritchett wrote in a text message. “Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river. Limbs and trees down. And the worst is yet to come.”

Some residents have chosen to stay in their homes, including Jared Lewis, a Tampa delivery driver, who told the Associated Press that his home has withstood hurricanes in the past, though not as powerful as Ian.

“It is kind of scary, makes you a bit anxious,” Lewis said. “After the last year of not having any, now you go to a category 4 or 5. We are more used to the 2s and 3s.”

Updated at 2.10am BST

1.37am BST

1.8 million Florida homes and businesses are without power

As a category 4 storm slams the coast of Florida, nearly every home and business in three counties was without power, the Associated Press reports :

  • In all, more than 1.8m Florida homes and businesses were without electricity .

  • In Naples, the first floor of a fire station was inundated with about 3 ft (1 meter) of water and firefighters worked to salvage gear from a firetruck stuck outside the garage in even deeper water, a video posted by the Naples fire department showed.

  • News anchors at Fort Myers television station WINK had to abandon their usual desk and continue storm coverage from another location in their newsroom because water was pushing into their building.

  • Flash floods were possible all across Florida. Hazards include the polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 bn tons of slightly radioactive waste contained in enormous ponds that could overflow in heavy rains.

Ian’s strength at landfall tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane when measured by wind speed to strike the U S . Among the other storms was Hurricane Charley, which hit nearly the same spot on Florida’s coast in August 2004, killing 10 people and inflicting $14bn in damage.

Updated at 2.13am BST

1.25am BST

Sheriff’s office chooses not to evacuate downtown Fort Myers jail: report

This is Lois Beckett, picking up our live coverage of Hurricane Ian, from our West Coast bureau in Los Angeles.

The jail in downtown Fort Myers is in a mandatory evacuation zone, but the local sheriff decided not to evacuate the jail , leaving an unknown number of people incarcerated there during the storm, the Miami New Times reports.

A spokesperson for Lee county sheriff Carmine Marceno told the Miami New Times that “in the event of an emergency, we have procedures in place”, and that the people incarcerated in the jail were safe. The spokesperson declined to tell the paper how many inmates were currently in the facility.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated at 1.29am BST

12.43am BST

Meteorologists in Florida are facing dangerous conditions reporting from the field, prompting criticism of broadcasters for putting employees in harm’s way.

The National Weather Service and local authorities have advised residents to remain sheltered – away from hazards including falling tree branches and power lines.

Updated at 12.47am BST

12.32am BST

Here’s what the hurricane looked like from the International Space Station, which flew over the region earlier today, just as it was making landfall.

12.18am BST

The flamingos at St Petersburg’s Sunken Gardens are riding out the storm in the bathroom.

In 1992, the Miami Zoo sheltered its flamingos in a similar way. Zoo animals are difficult to move, and during major storms, they are often moved to sheltered or secure structures within the grounds.

Updated at 12.22am BST

11.54pm BST

Curfews were issued for the coastal communities in Collier county and Fort Myers, starting this evening.

The governor also warned that people should remain indoors, even after the worst of the storm appears t have passed – as many fatalities occur in the aftermath of hurricanes, due to downed power lines and issues with generators.

“In Hurricane Irma, there were seven fatalities directly because of the storm, and there were 77 that were a result of post-storm,” he said.

Updated at 12.02am BST

11.46pm BST

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis said that the storm’s impacts are widespread, even in places far from where it made landfall.

“This is a big one, and I think we all know there’s going to be major, major impacts,” he said.

The governor said the storm’s surge has likely peaked, according to state meteorologists.

11.01pm BST

Dramatic video has emerged of the storm surge captured by a camera 6 f t off the ground on Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach, Florida amid Hurricane Ian.

The video shows torrential floods and powerful winds with trees blowing intensely in the background.

Updated at 11.15pm BST

10.58pm BST

Numerous people are trapped by water in their homes, Collier county sheriff’s office announced on Wednesday afternoon.

“Here’s some tough news you need to know. We aren’t holding back,” the sheriff’s office said .

“We are in call triage mode. We are getting a significant number of calls of people trapped by water in their homes.

Some are reporting life threatening medical emergencies in deep water. We will get to them first.

Some are reporting water coming into their house but not life threatening. They will have to wait. Possibly until the water recedes,” they added.

Collier county is home to approximately 370,000 people and is also facing widespread power outages.

Updated at 11.07pm BST

10.31pm BST

Over 1 million Florida residents without power

Over 1 million Florida residents are without power, according to PowerOutage.us.

As of 5.27pm ET, 1,295,261 residents in Florida are going through power outages. Charlotte county is currently the hardest hit, with 96.61% of its residents without power. Out of the 127,498 customers tracked, 123,178 are out.

The second hardest hit county is Lee county, with 85.45% of the customers without power, or 403,161 out of 471,806 customers who are tracked.

Updated at 10.51pm BST

10.24pm BST

The National Hurricane Center has issued an updated advisory on Hurricane Ian, stating that the hurricane is expected to move across central Florida tonight and Thursday morning and weaken as it progresses.

The hurricane is expected to emerge over the western Atlantic by late Thursday and will likely turn northward on Friday and approach the north-eastern Florida coast, Georgia and South Carolina coasts by late Friday.

“Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 140 mph (220 km/h) with higher gusts. Ian is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale,” the advisory stated.

“Further weakening is expected for the next day or so, but Ian could be near hurricane strength when it moves over the Florida east coast tomorrow, and when it approaches the north-eastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts late Friday.”

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 50 miles (85 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km),” it added.

Updated at 10.50pm BST

10.03pm BST

US Coast Guard searching for 23 missing migrants near Florida Keys

The US Coast Guard has initiated a search on Wednesday for 23 people who tried to cross the Florida Straits in the midst of Hurricane Ian.

According to border patrol agents, four migrants swam to shore on Stock Island in the Lower Keys around 7am on Wednesday, the Miami Herald reports.

In a statement to the outlet, Coast Guard spokeswoman petty officer Nicole Groll said the group told border patrol agents that they were with 23 other individuals on a boat, including a group of Cuban migrants. The boat sank in the storm, she added.

“Our crews took a calculated risk to brave the tropical storm force winds going through the Keys on the chance of people being alive in the water and being able to bring them home,” said Groll.

Updated at 10.15pm BST

9.38pm BST

Over 7,500 people are currently hunkering down in Hillsborough county shelters.

In a Facebook post around an hour ago, the Hillsborough county Sheriff’s Office said that over 7,500 residents are in in the county’s shelters and thanked them for abiding by warnings.

“We know the decision to leave behind your home and head to a shelter to ride out #HurricaneIan , is not an easy one to make. Thank you for heeding warnings and making sure you and your loved ones are safe!” the post said.

#teamHCSO has deputies as shelters and across the county to ensure the safety and security of our community!” it added.

Hillsborough county is home to Tampa where its mayor Jane Castor has urged residents to not go “running outside” citing downed power lines and trees as safety concerns.

Updated at 10.29pm BST

9.02pm BST

More than 7% of Florida residents without power

More than 7% of residents across Florida are currently without power.

According to PowerOutage.us, 7.3% of Floridians are left without power as of 3.56pm ET on Wednesday afternoon. With Hurricane Ian making landfall earlier this afternoon, the numbers are expected to change.

Counties that have been hardest hit include Lee county, which is currently experiencing an outage rate of 62.61%, or 295,394 out of 471,806 tracked customers who are without power.

Collier county is currently experiencing an outage rate of 49.17%. Out of the 262,833 customers tracked, 129,224 are without power.

The majority of those who are without power are Florida Power & Light customers.

Updated at 9.26pm BST

8.39pm BST

Significant amounts of water have receded from the beaches in Florida as Hurricane Ian stripped water away from the state’s coast.

“Hurricane Ian’s winds are swirling counter-clockwise as it moves northward along the Florida peninsula, so its winds are whipping the water away from the shoreline ahead of the center. As the storm passes through, winds in its eastern and lower half will shove water back toward land — and inland — at a prodigious rate,” NPR explains.

The National Weather Service posted eerie photos of the Venice Fishing Pier in Tampa with exposed seabeds.

“IMPORTANT NOTE: The water WILL come back. Please do not attempt to walk there or any other location with receding water,” the NWS warned.

8.14pm BST

Hurricane Ian makes landfall

Hurricane Ian has made landfall near Cayo Costa along the south-western coast of Florida.

“NOAA Doppler radar imagery indicates that the eye of Ian made landfall along the southwestern coast of Florida near Cayo Costa around 305 PM EDT,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement .

The category 4 hurricane’s maximum sustained winds were estimated to be close to 150mph, or 240km/h, said the agency.

Updated at 8.35pm BST

8.00pm BST

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis says about 200,000 of the state’s residents are without power, but it’s a “drop in the bucket for what’s going to happen over the next 24 to 48 hours.”

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Ron DeSantis. Photograph: Chris O’Meara/AP

DeSantis was speaking at an afternoon briefing in Lake City, as Hurricane Ian’s eyewall was beginning to make landfall:

There’s going to be widespread power outages, particularly in southwest Florida.

Outside of Southwest Florida crews are working to quickly restore power.

DeSantis said more than 42,000 lineworkers, many from out of state, were on standby to move in when conditions were considered safe.

He also said he had requested approval for a major disaster declaration for all 67 counties in Florida, which he said would cover 100% of the state’s upfront costs for “response and recovery” for the first 60 days from US government funds.

Joe Biden said earlier today that he had spoken with the Republican governor, and promised his “absolute commitment” to provide federal resources. In a rare, conciliatory moment for the Republican, usually a staunch critic of the president, DeSantis added:

We appreciate the Biden administration’s consideration for the people of Florida during this time of need.

DeSantis repeated warnings about the twin threat of life-threatening storm surge and deadly winds:

Have we had storms as strong as this hit Florida? Michael, Andrew, the Labor Day hurricane many many decades ago... yes. Have we had big storms that left a lot of water and flooding? We had Irma recently.

This is really bringing both to the table. You’re going to have a massive amount of power hitting that coastline with really, really strong winds. That is going to do a lot of damage.

7.41pm BST

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that the bipartisan funding bill in the Senate will ensure that the federal disaster relief fund will be used on Hurricane Ian’s damages.

“The bipartisan government funding bill the Senate is on track to pass this week will ensure the federal Disaster Relief Fund is fully resourced at this critical moment,” McConnell said.

“We are all keeping the people of Florida at the forefront of our thoughts, and we’ll stand ready to help our colleagues from Florida, the Governor, and local officials however we can.”

In a separate briefing by the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday that president Joe Biden will visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters tomorrow.

Updated at 7.44pm BST

7.08pm BST

Video has emerged online of the roads in Fort Myers Beach in Florida being completely submerged in water on Wednesday morning as a result of intense flooding.

6.49pm BST

Areas of Key West have been flooded with water as the Key West police department issued a warning to residents online, urging them to avoid walking in the water.

Many more millions of Florida residents lay directly in the path of the deadly cyclone, which also threatened to bring a storm surge of up to 18ft (5.5 meters) to vulnerable coastal and inland areas, reports Richard Luscombe from Miami.

Related: Hurricane Ian: millions in Florida in path of deadly cyclone approaching mainland

Updated at 6.52pm BST

6.23pm BST

Universal Orlando hotels are at capacity before Hurricane Ian, the theme park said.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, the Universal Orlando Resort said that its hotels are currently at full capacity and “will remain operational as they focus on taking care of our guests.”

It added that its guest services center is currently experiencing higher than expected wait times.

“Our destination, including CityWalk, will close on Wednesday, Sept. 28. We will remain closed Thursday and anticipate reopening on Friday, Sept. 30 as conditions permit,” Universal Orlando Resort said in another statement online.

The park has also cancelled its Halloween Horror Nights event and said it anticipates reopening the event on Friday, September 30, depending on weather conditions.

5.49pm BST

Tampa’s mayor, Jane Castor, has issued a video plea to residents, urging them to take shelter and safety measures as the city braces for Hurricane Ian to hit land this afternoon.

“Never thought I would say that I felt fortunate that we are only going to face tropical storm or category one hurricane winds but that’s what it looks like right now with the latest predictions,” she said.

“So that does not mean that we are out of danger with Hurricane Ian. We are still going to get high winds and we are going to get 18 to 20 inches or more of rain on an area that is already saturated,” Castor added.

“So please, please be aware that we are not out of danger yet. Flooding is still going to occur … after the storm, don’t go running outside. That’s where the majority of the injuries happen,” she warned, citing downed trees, fallen power lines and standing water.

Updated at 5.57pm BST

5.13pm BST

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released satellite images of Hurricane Ian captured on 28 September .

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In this Noaa handout, Hurricane Ian moves toward Florida on 28 September. Photograph: Getty Images

Updated at 5.55pm BST

4.50pm BST

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has laid out the predicted path of Hurricane Ian as it is expected to hit land this afternoon.

Interactive

4.36pm BST

Hurricane preparations have been underway at the Big Cat Rescue, the animal sanctuary in Tampa featured on Netflix’s Tiger King TV series.

Speaking to the Weather Channel, sanctuary head Carole Baskin laid out the measures BCR has taken to prepare for the hurricane.

“Unfortunately if a cat does escape, we have sedation drugs, we have a vet on call. But if a cat starts to exit the property, we have to shoot to kill,” she said .

About a dozen staff will take shelter in the gift shop and also patrol the sanctuary grounds, the Weather Channel reports.

Additionally, fuel and generators are being kept readily available to ensure that the animals do not miss any mealtimes.

“Usually what happens after a storm is we start getting calls about wild animals running loose in Florida and so if it is an exotic cat that you see, do give us a call and we will help respond with the Florida Wildlife Commission to bring that cat into safety,” Baskin said.

Updated at 5.58pm BST

4.02pm BST

Hurricane Ian's eyewall 'coming onshore'

It’s 11am eastern time, and the National Hurricane Center has just released its latest advisory on Hurricane Ian.

The category 4 storm’s “extremely dangerous eyewall” is “moving onshore”, the NHC says, and “will cause catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding in the Florida peninsula soon”.

The official landfall is not declared until the center of the storm reaches land, which will happen in the coming few hours.

The cities of Fort Myers, Port Charlotte and Cape Coral lie directly in Ian’s path, with effects stretching for hundreds of miles along the Florida coast either side and inland.

“Ian is expected to make landfall in southwestern Florida in the next few hours as a catastrophic hurricane,” the NHC says, repeating its warnings of a storm surge up to 18ft, and winds of 155mph at landfall.

You can follow the latest storm track models and hurricane center’s predictions at their website here .

Updated at 4.10pm BST

3.55pm BST

There’s been a briefing at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Agency, where administrator Deanne Criswell has been warning Florida residents not to focus just on the areas of Hurricane Ian’s landfall.

“The majority of the state of Florida is in Ian’s crosshairs,” she said.

“We need everyone to heed the warnings of their local officials before during and after the storm.

“These are life-saving messages that simply cannot be ignored. Water is dangerous, period, from coastal storm surge to inland flooding. Never drive through standing or moving water, as it takes only a few inches of water to carry away a vehicle.

“Second, if you are taking shelter in an area with rising water levels, quickly find higher ground. And third, never operate a generator in your home. Too many lives are lost each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Updated at 5.10pm BST

3.43pm BST

Biden: Hurricane 'no excuse' for gas price gouging

Joe Biden is warning gas and oil companies not to use Hurricane Ian as an excuse for price gouging.

Speaking in Washington DC at the White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health, the president also said he’d spoken with Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis and made “an absolute commitment” of federal resources to help the state during and after the storm:

I made it clear to the governor and the mayors that the federal government is ready to help in every single way possible.

When the storm passes, the federal government will be there to help you recover, we’ll be there to help you clean up and rebuild to help get Florida get moving. We’ll be there at every step of the way. That’s my absolute commitment to the people in the state of Florida.

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Joe Biden delivers a warning to energy companies at the White House on Wednesday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Biden has approved DeSantis’s request for a federal emergency declaration and set aside, temporarily at least, bitter political differences between two men who could be rivals for the presidency in 2024.

He said hundreds of Fema (Federal Emergency Management Agency) personnel, thousands of National Guard members and teams of search and rescue teams had been deployed from federal agencies:

They’re already on the ground and ready to help as we speak. Fema has requisitioned literally millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of generators. We have a scheduled everything we can possibly do.

He closed his remarks with the warning to energy companies:

This warning is to the oil and gas industry executives. Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices and gouge the American people.

Updated at 3.48pm BST

3.25pm BST

Florida governor DeSantis: 'Pray for people'

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis says Hurricane Ian is an historic storm that’s going to leave “an indelible mark” on the state.

He’s just been speaking at a press conference in Lake City as the storm edged closer to Florida’s south west coastline:

Pray for people. This is a major, major storm.

There’s some storms that really leave an indelible impact… this is going to be one of those historic storms and it’s going to shape the communities in south west Florida and have a profound impact on our state.

So we just ask people for their thoughts and their prayers.

DeSantis said Florida had coped with numerous storms in the past, and would deal with this one and move on.

It’s never fun to have damage. It’s never fun to see flooding. It’s never fun to see power interrupted. But you kind of deal with it. And then you move forward.

About 30,000 electricity linemen, numerous urban search and rescue teams and 7,000 National Guard troops from Florida and elsewhere are ready to help once the weather clears, the governor said:

The assets we have are unprecedented in the state’s history and, unfortunately, they’ll need to be deployed.

Updated at 3.28pm BST

3.05pm BST

Here’s the updated official storm surge projection from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, which says up to 18ft of water from the Gulf of Mexico can be expected in some areas close to Ian’s imminent landfall.

In addition, up to 2ft of rain is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours in the most heavily impacted areas.

2.58pm BST

Hurricane Ian won’t make landfall until this afternoon, but some areas of Florida have already suffered substantial damage from tornadoes spawned in the storm’s outer bands.

On Tuesday night in Broward county, on Florida’s south east coast, several small planes were overturned at North Perry airport, and numerous trees came crashing down.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3UWgSY_0iDaNdXk00
Zuram Rodriguez surveys the damage around her mobile home in Davie, close to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Joe Cavaretta/AP

Florida Power and Light, the state’s largest energy provider, is warning that power could be out for “days” for those in Ian’s path.

In Tampa, hundreds of residents have been evacuated from several nursing homes and hospitals in anticipation of power loss.

2.45pm BST

Fema chief: 'This is going to be a catastrophic impact'

One of the mantras of major hurricanes is that you can shelter from the wind – which is up to 155mph in the case of Hurricane Ian – but you can’t hide from the water. Officials fear the storm surge of up to 18ft, predicted by the National Hurricane Center in Florida, will be deadly.

Deanne Criswell , administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has just been on CNN to explain the risk:

This is going to be a catastrophic impact, and not just where we’re going to see the storm make landfall.

We’re really concerned about all of the inland flooding because it’s bringing with it a lot of rain and it’s going to move slowly, which means people in the path are going to experience the impacts for a long period of time.

My biggest concerns is the water, the storm surge and flooding. Water is one of the leading causes of death, direct fatalities, in these storms.

We know that a lot of people have evacuated but we also know there’s people that haven’t.

Criswell says a “robust search and rescue capability” of teams from several emergency response agencies including firefighters and the US coast guard has been assembled, and is stationed in Miami, on Florida’s south-east coast.

They will go in when it’s safe to do so, which might be before the storm has fully passed, she says:

As the storm moves, and as it’s safe for our search and rescue teams to go in, they’ll start searching those areas to see and assess damage, but most importantly look for people that may need help getting out of the area.

But just because they’re out doesn’t mean that individuals should be out. They need to stay put until the storm completely passes. And then when they do go out they need to be really cautious.

So many dangers that are going to be out there, with the flooding, the water, the downed power lines.

Updated at 2.54pm BST

2.30pm BST

Good morning, it’s Richard Luscombe in Miami, Florida, welcoming you to our live blog covering the imminent landfall of Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever to strike the US mainland.

Millions of Florida residents are in the path of the deadly monster storm, and officials are warning of a looming catastrophe after Ian strengthened overnight to just shy of maximum category 5 status, pushing out winds of 155mph at its center.

The hurricane claimed several lives as it tore through Cuba, wrecking western communities and knocking out power to the entire island .

Now Ian has its sights on an afternoon landfall on the south-west coast of Florida, where a predicted storm surge of up to 18ft is liable to cause substantial flooding.

The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, told coastal residents in Ian’s path who haven’t already fled that it’s too late to do so now. “It’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” he said, urging them to shelter in place.

We’ll bring you all the developments as they happen.

Meanwhile, please take a read of our news story here:

Related: Hurricane Ian upgraded to category 4 storm as it bears down on Florida

Comments / 9

Light
09-29

All the conservative Republicans will be standing with their hands out this weekend to get Government welfare! They chose to live in a state with high expectations of hurricanes. WHY SHOULD MY MONEY GO TO HELP THEM? (It's always different when it happens to you?)

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