Florida is not just the flattest US state – much of it is at, or near, sea level.
That’s a concern. As my colleague Richard Luscombe noted yesterday: “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.”
The storm surge of up to 18ft, as predicted by the National Hurricane Center in Florida, remains a great threat, according to FEMA.
Here’s where it is expected to hit:
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,” Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), told CNN yesterday.
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.”
AP reports that emergency crews are sawing through toppled trees to reach people in flooded homes, but with no electricity and virtually no cell service, it was impossible for many people to call for help from the hardest hit coastal areas where the surge came in.
“Portable towers are on the way for cell service. Chances are your loved ones do not have ability to contact you,” said the sheriff’s office in Collier County, which includes Naples.
“We can tell you as daylight reveals the aftermath, it’s going to be a hard day.”
Flooding is the key threat now posed by Ian – and it is central Florida, rather than Tampa Bay (which initially appeared in the hurricane’s sights) that is most at risk.
The NOAA says water levels are subsiding along the coast but hurricane conditions are possible along the coasts of northeastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where a hurricane watch is in effect.
The agency said “life-threatening catastrophic flooding”, with major or even record river flooding, will continue across portions of central Florida.
Flash flood emergencies are in place in many areas:
And the National Hurricane Center is warning of huge amounts of rain along more or less the entire US east coast up to New York City:
Hospital doctor: “We didn’t anticipate that the roof would blow off”
The true extent of the damage across Florida remains difficult to assess, as many areas remain flooded and in some cases are bracing for the worst yet to come, with a huge storm surge expected.
But we do know that the storm has caused major damage to a key Florida intensive care hospital, HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte.
The surge flooded its lower level emergency room, and tropical storm winds ripped off part of its fourth floor roof from its intensive care unit (ICU), a doctor told Associated Press.
Dr Birgit Bodine said she stayed at the hospital overnight expecting the night to be busy but “we didn’t anticipate that the roof would blow off on the fourth floor”.
The hole in the roof caused the ICU to flood from above and the hospital’s sickest patients, some on ventilators, were evacuated to other floors. The storm made two of the hospital’s four floors uninhabitable. Bodine said she feared for capacity issues today if the storm caused extensive harm to Florida residents.
“The ambulances may be coming soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this point,” she said. “Because we’re doubled and tripled up.”
Good morning, it’s Chris Michael covering the landfall of Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US mainland.
Around 2.5 million Florida residents are without power as the monster storm at one point strengthened to just shy of maximum category 5 status, pushing out winds of 155mph at its center.
The storm has trapped people in flooded homes, damaged a hospital intensive care unit and is leaving a wake of destruction as it heads across Florida toward the Atlantic Coast. Nearly the entire state has been hit, with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 415 miles (665 km).
The National Hurricane Center said Ian had been downgraded to a tropical storm over land early Thursday, but was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day.
Much of the Gulf Coast remained inundated by ocean water, with storm surge inundation of 8 to 10 feet above ground level from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor, according to the center.
The hurricane previously killed several people in Cuba and knocked out power to the entire island.
A predicted storm surge of up to 18ft is liable to cause substantial flooding. The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, said it’s too late for residents who haven’t already fled to do so now. “It’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” he said.
We’ll bring you all the developments as they happen. Meanwhile, please read our news story here: