- Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a tropical storm, as of Thursday afternoon
- Sustained wind speeds have slowed to 70 miles per hour, down from the 155 miles per hour wind speed seen on Wednesday
- Ian is forecasted to break through Florida’s northeastern coast and into the western Atlantic Ocean before taking a left turn back into the Carolinas on Friday night
- Local and federal emergency response is underway across the state
Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday afternoon, as sustained wind speeds have begun to slow. Ian is expected to emerge through Florida’s northeastern coastal region into the western Atlantic by tonight before swinging back into the Carolinas this weekend.
Tropical storm Ian now has winds of 70 miles per hour, continuing to move through St. John’s and Volusia counties. Despite the weakened wind strength, the storm’s passage brought devastating flooding to the area.
Once the storm enters the western Atlantic Ocean, Ian will strengthen once more, becoming a Category 1 Hurricane before making a second landfall close to Charleston, South Carolina.
Ian, one of the most powerful storm systems to ever hit the southeastern United States, left a trail of destruction in its path. Turning streets into rivers, flood water heights of at least 12 feet were recorded in the southwestern Florida counties of Hillsborough and Lee. In its wake, more than 2 million Floridians are left without power.
“Hurricane Ian has devastated Southwest Florida and continues to bring torrential rain and dangerous winds to Central and Northeast Florida today. This was a major storm and it demands a well-coordinated major response and recovery effort,” said Senator and former Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Stateside, search and rescue operations are underway with more than 800 team members performing search and rescue. The National Guard and the Coast Guard are landing helicopters on barrier islands to perform search and rescue.
Following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ authorization, a total of 5,000 Florida Guardsmen have been activated to State Active Duty for storm response operations with approximately 2,000 Guardsmen from neighboring states also activated to assist.
In addition to local aid, the federal government announced on Thursday that federal disaster assistance has been made available to Florida to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in weather-damaged areas.
The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.
“We are getting help to Florida families as they face Hurricane Ian,” said President Joe Biden. “I approved the Governor’s request for emergency assistance as soon as I received it. And ahead of the storm, we dispatched FEMA and National Guard to prepare for the storm.