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World News

29 Sep 2022

Hurricane Ian continues to batter Florida as a Category 1 storm while officials warn the worst is yet to come

City of Naples Fire Rescue posted video of a water rescue in Naples, Florida.
CNN:

 

Hurricane Ian continued to batter the Florida peninsula with a catastrophic trifecta of high winds, heavy rain and historic storm surge Wednesday night, even as it weakened to a Category 1 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.

Amid widespread flooding, property damage, power outages and water-rescue calls, and with the slow-moving hurricane inching inland hours after making landfall along Florida’s vulnerable western coastline, officials across the state continued to issue dire warnings to residents to stay inside.

The storm surge along the west coast of Florida has peaked and is beginning to recede as the storm moves inland, according to the hurricane center.

However, “water levels are quite high in those areas still and so it will take some time for the water to recede,” Cody Fritz, storm surge specialist at the National Hurricane Center, warned.

“There’s still plenty of onshore flow along the coast keeping water levels elevated, so while the peak surge values will decrease here relative to previous value, I still expect waters to be up for a while and the need to maintain the storm surge warnings,” Fritz said.

In Collier County, authorities have been inundated with water rescue calls. The Sheriff’s Office said it’s in “call triage mode” and getting numerous calls of people trapped by water.

Spell could not specify how many calls have come in at this time nor comment on injuries.

“Water is everywhere,” according to a Sheriff’s Office statement late Wednesday, which added that “our East Naples deputies did 30 rescue missions today. We are still collecting numbers from other areas. We are still rescuing people.”

“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,” a post on the county’s Facebook page read.

To make matters worse, the Lee County’s 911 system is down and calls are be rerouted to Collier County Sheriff, according to the post. “You can’t imagine the calls,” the post read.

A mandatory curfew was put in place for all of Collier County beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday and ending at 6 a.m. Thursday, the county government tweeted Wednesday.

Lee and Charlotte counties have also implemented curfews. Lee County’s began at 6 p.m. and is in place until further notice, while Charlotte County’s begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m.

In Punta Gorda, CNN’s Randi Kaye took shelter in a parking garage as she described how the streets were devoid of people and cars. Trees were either knocked down or standing and stripped bare. Debris could also be seen flying down the street and the only vehicle visible in the city had “STORMCHASER” written on the side.

The storm made landfall as a Category 4 near Cayo Costa around 3:05 p.m., with winds near 150 mph, according to the hurricane center. At this point, Hurricane Ian is tied for the strongest storm to make landfall on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, matching the wind speed of Hurricane Charley in 2004. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday Ian will rank as one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula, behind Hurricanes Andrew (1992) and Michael (2018).

Ian weakened to a Category 1 hurricane by Wednesday night as it moved across central Florida, churning sustained winds of 90 mph.

Nearly 2 million Florida utility customers were without power as of 6 p.m., according to PowerOutage.us. Officials in Cape Coral and Punta Gorda reported significant impacts, and the storm surge set records for the highest water levels ever observed in Fort Myers and Naples.

“The storm surge is very significant. We’re seeing cars and boats float down the street. We’re seeing trees nearly bent in half,” Frank Loni, an architect from California staying in Fort Myers Beach for the storm, said midday Wednesday. “There’s quite a bit of chaos on the streets.”

DeSantis said storm surge from Ian has hit up to 12 feet in some areas.”It is our meteorologist’s view that the storm surge has likely peaked and will be less in the coming hours,” he said.

Ian is expected to retain hurricane strength through the day and into tomorrow as the center of the storm moves northeast over the Florida Peninsula, passing close to Orlando and Daytona Beach, before moving back into the Atlantic Ocean Thursday afternoon. Hurricane warnings have been issued for not only southwest Florida, but also much of central Florida from coast to coast.

A number of other weather advisories have also been issued throughout Florida. A flash flood emergency impacting more than 300,000 people is in effect south central Sarasota county, southeast Manatee, northwest Desoto, Hardee, and northwest Highlands counties through 10:45 p.m..

An extreme wind warning is in effect for Sebrin, Avon Park and Arcadia until 9:30 p.m. for extremely dangerous hurricane winds as the storm passes.

 

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