Storm surge up to 3.6 meters high in Florida due to Hurricane Ian, almost two million people without power | Weather news

Almost two million people in Florida are already without power after Hurricane Ian (category 4), labeled as extremely dangerous, made landfall on Wednesday night Belgian time. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, some coastal towns have been hit by a storm surge of 12 feet (3.6 meters), which has caused major flooding. DeSantis expects the hurricane to cause damage throughout the state after the storm previously left Cuba completely in the dark.

Ian made landfall around 20:00 Wednesday evening Belgian time in the Sarasota region, which is further south than the densely populated region of metropolitan Tampa where the hurricane was originally expected. The eye of the natural disaster made landfall on Florida’s southwest coast near Cayo Costa more than an hour later, at around 21:05 Belgian time.

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported wind speeds of more than 150 miles per hour, devastating torrential rain and a treacherous swell with high waves. This means that Storm Ian is still a category 4 hurricane, labeled as “extremely dangerous”. There is only one more dangerous category, number 5. Ian would be almost strong enough for that. That makes this hurricane one of the most powerful to hit the United States in ages. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a storm surge of 3.6 to 5.5 meters and up to 60 centimeters of rain. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) therefore warned of “life-threatening situations”. “We will be talking about these for years to come,” said Ken Graham, the director of the United States Weather Service (NWS).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis agrees. “This is a big one, and I think we all know there are going to be big, big consequences,” said DeSantis, who expects Ian to cause damage across the state. Hundreds of miles away from where Ian made landfall on Wednesday, residents are already dealing with the effects of the hurricane, the Republican said during a news conference Wednesday evening. According to Desantis, some coastal towns in the ‘sunshine state’ have been hit by a storm surge of up to 3.6 meters high. That storm surge is causing major flooding, but according to the governor, coastal waters will not rise further now that the hurricane is moving inland.

More than 1.9 million homes and commercial buildings are without power, the website Poweroutage.us reports. Previously, the electricity companies had managed to get 300,000 customers online despite the bad weather, but that success was quickly overshadowed by major problems elsewhere. In fact, Florida Power & Light Company reported power outages in nearly 720,000 homes it serves.

An uprooted tree in Cayo Costa. © AFP

“Don’t save others yourself”

In Collier County, south of where Ian made landfall, several people are trapped in their homes due to rising waters, a police spokesman said. The alarm center receives a “significant number” of calls. Emergency services ask citizens to be patient and especially not to try to rescue others with their own boats and cars. Many people die in the wake of hurricanes, when electricity pylons topple and the rising water is electrified, the authorities emphasize. DeSantis reports that 250 planes and helicopters, 1,600 vehicles and 300 boats have been made ready to help civilians as quickly as possible.


Many photos of the storm are shared on social media. The American weatherman Mike Bettes shares a picture on Twitter that shows that the water is almost two meters high in the streets along the coast. A photo showing the flamingos at the Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida, being rescued in the toilets, gets a lot of reactions on Twitter.


The TV studio flooded

Videos are now showing from the West Florida coastal communities where Ian went ashore. Photos shared by the Naples Fire Department on Facebook show firefighters standing in water up to their waists. WINK TV’s TV studio in Fort Myers flooded and interrupted the local TV station’s coverage around 10 p.m. The Washington Post reports that the storm surge in Fort Myers is 2.1 meters high.


Wandering boat sunk

On the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, the foot of the storm already reached the city of Key West, the southernmost point in the state of Florida. Social media showed images of flooded streets and meter-high waves.

On its way to Florida, the hurricane sank a boat with Cuban migrants. At least 20 people on board are still missing, according to the US Border Patrol. The Coast Guard was able to rescue three more drowning people. They were exhausted and showing signs of dehydration. The search for victims continues unabated with the help of helicopters. Local news site Local10.com reported that the vessel disappeared in the raging waves off the Florida Keys on Wednesday morning. Four people managed to swim to Stock Island, near Key West. They were taken to hospital for examination.

Evacuation

On Florida’s west coast, 2.5 million people have moved away from the coast in fear of the storm, high waves and flooding from the heavy rainfall.

In the city of Fort Myers, streets are flooded and cars were swept away by the water. All over the US flights to Florida have been canceled due to severe weather.


Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Tuesday night that evacuation will be difficult for those who wait too long. Because the wind had already begun to blow, authorities planned to close highway bridges. People should take into account power outages that can last for days, it says. There are fears of $60 billion (€63 billion) in storm damage.

It is expected that Ian will gradually weaken over land, but serious inconvenience is to be expected until at least Thursday.

US President Joe Biden stressed that the federal government stands ready to provide all possible assistance to the authorities in Florida and the affected communities – before the storm, during the storm and for the necessary reconstruction afterwards. He also warned that the hurricane is life-threatening. Biden urged residents in the affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities.

Cuba

Ian made landfall on Cuba’s west coast as a Category 3 hurricane on Tuesday, causing widespread damage on the island, particularly in the westernmost province of Pinar del Río. Power has been cut throughout the country, according to Lázaro Guerra, the technical director of the state-owned company in charge of Cuba’s power grid. Two people died when their house collapsed.

The Cuban capital Havana is completely shrouded in darkness.
The Cuban capital Havana is completely shrouded in darkness. © AFP

The storm also caused some property damage in Cuba.
The storm also caused some material damage in Cuba. © ANP / EPA

SEE ALSO: Tornadoes in Florida in the run-up to Hurricane Ian

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