Hurricane Ian, as forecasted, is bearing down on Florida at Category 4 strength, with current sustained winds of up to 140 mph. Landfall appears to have shifted south of the Tampa Bay area, however, with central Florida now at the greatest risk.
1. 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. Residents in these areas should listen to advice given by local officials and follow any evacuation orders for your area.2. Hurricane-force winds are expected in the hurricane warning area in southwest and west-central Florida beginning Wednesday morning with tropical storm conditions expected overnight. Catastrophic wind damage is expected near the core of Ian when it moves onshore. 3. 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 expected across central Florida.
When Ian does make landfall later today, between wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall, the damage is likely to be significant. More than 2 million Floridians are under evacuation order along Florida’s Gulf Coast, although loss of life is still likely to be significant (the grim reality of a “mandatory” evactuation order in advance of a hurricane is that it boils down to “don’t call 911 when the storm hits” and many people often choose to disregard the evacuation order).
Still, while storm damage will be undoubtedly costly, and flooding will likely extend up into Georgia and the Carolinas, the Ian’s intensity is forecast to drop significantly after making landfall, becoming a tropical storm as early as tomorrow afternoon. If that forecast holds, it will limit the severity of the damage and the complexity of the cleanup somewhat.
Ian is a bad storm, but it is not likely to be the worst storm Florida has experienced.