More than 2.5 million Floridians were warned to evacuate Tuesday as Hurricane Ian neared the state’s west coast after knocking out power across Cuba.
South Florida began to feel the storm’s first effects Tuesday evening, with rain and strong winds lashing the area, and storm surge threats that will continue overnight.
The Category 3 storm was packing winds of 120 mph Tuesday night and was centered about 180 miles south-southwest of the city of Punta Gorda, where it is expected to make landfall in less than 24 hours. Is. Civil authorities there announced on Tuesday night Emergency services, including police and fire response, will remain suspended until the storm passes, when it is safe to resume response calls.
For days, forecasters and Florida officials have warned that it will be a dangerous storm with life-threatening storm surge and flooding and strong winds. By Tuesday night, Ian’s hurricane-force winds were 40 miles from its center and tropical-storm-force winds were about 140 miles, with gusts in excess of 50 mph in parts of the Florida Keys. Gusts of wind were reported. National Hurricane Center.
“I plead, I plead with all those in the evacuation zone who have been told to evacuate – now is the time. You must evacuate now. There will come a time when traveling the streets It’s not going to be safe,” Florida Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie warned at a news conference Tuesday evening.
“There will come a time when local public safety officials will not be able to respond to your call for help. You may be left to fend for yourself,” he added.
Ian will likely make landfall as a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane between Sarasota and Port Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon into the evening. (Hurricanes are designated as Category 4 when wind speeds are reached. 130 mph to 156 mph.) whichever of the two, a predictor warned The storm is still a “major and devastating hurricane” for the state, which urged residents to heed the advice of local leaders.
And it’s not just Southwest Florida.
“This is going to have a huge impact that will be felt far and wide across the state of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Tuesday evening news conference. “As the storm progresses, you’ll likely have (evacuation) orders for people in the interior of our state or even people on the east coast of the state for low-lying areas that could absolutely cause flooding. “
All of Cuba in darkness
Ian made landfall in Cuba early Tuesday as a Category 3 hurricane. On Tuesday night, Cuban state media reported that the entire island was in a nationwide blackout. Cuban officials said the hurricane caused power outages and they hoped to restore power late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Earlier, state electric company Unión Eléctrica de Cuba said it would keep power off in Havana to prevent d*aths and property damage until the weather improves. The company said they shut off power to the area ahead of the storm to prevent electr*cution and prevent fires.
of Cuba The tobacco-rich province of Pinar del Rio According to Cuban state television, the storm caused a power outage. Floodwater-covered fields and fallen trees lie in front of buildings in San Juan y Martínez, a town in the province, images state media outlet Cubadebate show.
Up to 16 inches of rain and mudslides and flooding are expected in western Cuba, the center of the hurricane. said. Mylene Suarez, a resident of the city of Pinar del Rio, told Reuters that the storm made it the darkest night of her life.
“We almost lost the roof of our house,” Suarez told Reuters. “My daughter, my husband and I tied it with a rope to prevent it from flying away.”
‘It’s getting too late’
Of the 2.5 million Floridians under some form of evacuation directive, more than 1.75 million were under mandatory evacuation orders as of Tuesday afternoon. Most were in Lee County, which encompasses Fort Myers.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for parts of the county in a hurricane warning area stretching from Tampa north to the Fort Myers area. It includes Pinellas, Hillsborough And believe Tampa area, Hernando, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, and parts of Lee County. Emergency shelters have been opened.
In Pinellas County, where more than 440,000 people are under mandatory evacuation, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibberd told CNN Tuesday afternoon that it was too late for residents to evacuate.
“If you haven’t evacuated yet, if you haven’t got supplies yet, it’s too late. You just need to shelter in place and wait out the storm,” the mayor said.
State agencies were also working to help prepare and protect elderly residents, making site visits to nursing homes and assisting with housing facilities in the storm’s path.
Before the storm, so did Georgia Governor Brian Kemp A state of emergency has been issued Tuesday, warning of heavy rain and damaging winds across the state over the weekend.
What are the threats?
The approaching storm poses several threats to West Central Florida:
• Storm surge: A storm surge warning — meaning the surge could be life-threatening — is in effect for much of Florida’s west coast, from Suwanee in the Big Bend area to the tip of the peninsula in the Everglades.
A warning is also in effect for the extreme northeast Florida coast, from near the Georgia state line to Marineland, as well as further inland for the St. John River.
The worst — 8 to 12 feet — is forecast for Florida’s west coast from just south of Bradenton to Bonita Beach south of the hurricane’s center, Fort Myers. said. Areas outside of this zone, including Tampa Bay, are also likely to experience significant storm surge.
Forecasters in South Florida warned Storm surge can damage buildings and wash away many buildings.
• the rain: Totals could reach 12 inches in the Florida Keys and south Florida and 24 inches for central and northeast Florida.
“The storm, when it hits land, yes it’s going to weaken, but it’s also going to slow down, which means it’s just churning up rain, moving at a snail’s pace,” DeSantis said. “That rain is going to pile up pretty quickly in parts of Southwest Florida.”
Many parts of the state are already overcrowded, officials said. South Florida has received more than double the normal rainfall over the past two weeks, with some areas receiving more than 6 inches of water. Several rivers in central and western Florida are also already above flood stage as Ian makes his way across the state, further increasing flood risks.
• Damaging winds: A hurricane warning — meaning winds of at least 74 mph — covers about 8 million people in parts of west and central Florida — including from the Anclote River north of Tampa to south of Fort Myers. Area to Bonita Beach.
National Weather Service for Miami and South Florida said Strong winds can damage buildings and blow roofs off, completely destroy mobile homes and leave some areas “uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
“You’re really looking at a multi-hazard, multi-day long event here across much of the west and central Florida peninsula,” Michael Brennan, acting deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told CNN Tuesday morning.
Closures, flights canceled before Ian
The hurricane’s dangerous approach to Florida triggered preparations across the state as officials announced school closings and flight cancellations, and the military began evacuating ships and planes.
Along Florida’s west coast, officials are urging residents to get out of harm’s way rather than stay in to protect their property.
Around the state, residents waited in long lines Monday to fill sandbags or get bottled water in preparation for the storm’s arrival.
Resident Khadijah Jones told CNN she stood in line for three hours Monday to pick up free sandbags in Tampa, not sure if her home would flood. “Just doing the basics … securing loose material in the yard, sandbags in low-lying areas, and getting items to prepare without electricity,” he said.
Several closures and cancellations were announced as the storm approached.
HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg announced It has suspended services and transferred patients.
Colleges and universities across the state – including Bethune Cookman University Daytona Beach and me University of South Florida in Tampa — are taking steps to prepare, including evacuating campuses or moving to online classes.
At the K-12 levelmore than 50 school districts The closure was announced by Tuesday evening.
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