- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hurricane Ian reached maximum winds of 155 mph and conditions are “rapidly deteriorating” along the southwest Florida coast before landfall, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a stark warning Wednesday.

Ian’s center was 55 miles from the coast with winds that are just 2 mph short of a Category 5 storm.

“Ian is forecast to make landfall on the west coast of Florida as a catastrophic category 4 hurricane. Weakening is expected after landfall,” the hurricane center said.



Ian is expected to slow down and sit over Florida after reaching land Wednesday afternoon, raising the prospect of sustained damage.

Officials are warning residents from Tampa to Naples about the potential for life-threatening storm surges, or when storms cause waters to rise far above tidal levels.

“This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions,” the hurricane center said Wednesday.


SEE ALSO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces catastrophic Hurricane Ian as the political world watches


“This is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said early Wednesday, stressing that people in Ian’s path along the coast should rush to the safest possible shelter and stay there. “Do what you need to do to stay safe. If you are where that storm is approaching, you’re already in hazardous conditions. It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly. So please hunker down.”

More than 2 million people have been told to leave the potentially impacted area. 

Parts of Florida are feeling the impact ahead of landfall, with reports of tropical-force winds and at least two possible tornadoes in Broward County. The North Perry Airport reported damage to planes and hangars.

Gil Gonzalez wasn’t taking any chances. He boarded the windows of his Tampa home with plywood and laid down sandbags to guard against any flooding. He and his wife packed their car with bottled water, flashlights, battery packs for their cellphones and a camp stove before evacuating.

“All the prized possessions, we’ve put them upstairs in a friend’s house,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

Airports in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Key West closed. Disney World theme parks and Sea World in Orlando all closed ahead of the storm.

A couple from England on vacation in Tampa found themselves faced with riding out the storm at a shelter. Glyn and Christine Williams of London were told to leave their hotel near the beach when evacuations were ordered. Because the airport shut down, they could get no flight home.

“Unfortunately, all the hotels are full or closed, so it looks as though we’re going to be in one of the shelters,” Christine Williams said.

Her husband insisted all would be fine. “You know, you got to go with the flow,” Glyn Williams said. “So we’re quite happy doing what we’re doing.”

Florida Power and Light warned those in Ian’s path to brace for days without electricity. As a precaution, hundreds of residents were being evacuated from several nursing homes in the Tampa area, where hospitals also were moving some patients.

Parts of Georgia and South Carolina also could see flooding rains and some coastal surge into Saturday. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp preemptively declared an emergency, ordering 500 National Guard troops onto standby to respond as needed.

Before turning toward Florida, Ian struck Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and causing destruction in the island nation’s world-famous tobacco belt. No deaths were reported.

Local government station TelePinar reported heavy damage at the main hospital in Pinar del Rio city, tweeting photos of collapsed ceilings, widely flung debris and toppled trees. Some people left the stricken area on foot, carrying their children, while buses tried to evacuate others through waterlogged streets. Others opted to stay in their damaged houses.

“It was horrible,” said Yusimi Palacios, a resident of Pinar del Rio inside her damaged house. “But here we are alive, and I only ask the Cuban revolution to help me with the roof and the mattress.”

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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