- Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday stated that the time has passed to safely evacuate areas in Hurricane Ian’s path, recommending that those remaining shelter in place
- Ian is just several miles per hour in wind speed short of being classified as a Category 5 storm. Catastrophic flooding and massive storm surges are expected to set upon Florida’s Gulf Coast later today
- The Skyway Bridge connecting Pinellas and Manatee counties has closed due to high winds, making evacuation efforts out of the area more difficult to carry through with
Hurricane Ian strengthened to a Category 4 storm last night as it readies to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Amid impending floods and storm surges, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday morning warned that it’s too late to evacuate afflicted areas.
Just 2 miles per hour short of being classified as a Category 5, roughly 2.5 million Floridians had been urged by local authorities to leave their homes to escape Ian. Following early landfall, 17,000 in Broward County are reported to be without power.
Now, just hours ahead of a direct impact close to Sarasota, DeSantis asks those that refused to evacuate to shelter in place and prepare the best they can to withstand rising water levels.
“The highest risk areas are ranging from Collier up to Sarasota County. If you are in any of those counties, it’s no longer possible to safely evacuate. It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm.”
The Skyway Bridge connecting Pinellas and Manatee counties has been closed off to all traffic, as of Wednesday morning due to high winds. State officials on Tuesday stated they would shut bridges down once winds reached a certain speed.
Local authorities report that winds reached close to 60 miles per hour on the bridge when it was shuttered at 7:30 A.M.
Elsewhere, Publix stores are readying to close at 6:00 P.M. in Orange County in preparation for a heavy storm impact tonight.
The near-term path of Hurricane Ian has not changed considerably since Tuesday night, though the National Hurricane Center says life-threatening storm surge is expected along the Florida west coast and the Lower Florida Keys where a storm surge warning is in effect, with the highest risk from Naples to the Sarasota region.
Hurricane-force winds are expected in the warning areas of southwest and west-central Florida beginning Wednesday morning with tropical storm conditions expected overnight. Heavy rainfall will spread across the Florida peninsula through Thursday and reach portions of the Southeast later this week and this weekend.
Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida, southeastern Georgia, and coastal South Carolina. Widespread, prolonged major and record river flooding is expected across central Florida.
“This will cause life-threatening storm surge, flooding, tropical storm force winds will be felt through the entire state and even isolated tornadoes,” said Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.