Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida
Tallahassee, Sep 29: Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida on Wednesday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
"NOAA Doppler radar imagery indicates that the eye of Ian has made landfall on the mainland southwest Florida peninsula just south of Punta Gorda near Pirate Harbor," the NHC said in an update at 4:35 p.m. local time (2035 UTC/GMT). "Maximum sustained winds at landfall were estimated to be 145 mph (235 km/h)."
Punta Gorda is to the south of the larger city of Tampa on Florida's western coastline, with the hurricane moving north-northeast towards Tampa and eventually Orlando.
Hurricane Ian had already brought a devastating storm surge over Florida. The storm's strength is just shy of Category 5, the most dangerous status.
According to the NHC, Ian had grown to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane overnight, with top winds of 155 mph.
305 PM EDT 28 Sep -- Hurricane #Ian has made landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane near Cayo Costa, Florida with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph. The minimum pressure from Air Force Reconnaissance Hurricane Hunters was 940 mb.— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 28, 2022
Latest: https://t.co/tnOTyfORCw pic.twitter.com/O3agPDOZHk
Dozens of shelters were set up after authorities had issued mandatory evacuation orders for 2.5 million people across Florida.
However, by Wednesday, it was already too late to flee as conditions were rapidly deteriorating. Electricity had been severed for more than 1 million homes out of just over 11 million tracked customers in the state of Florida, according to the tracking website poweroutage.us.
All commercial flights stopped operating in Tampa and Orlando's airports.
Migrant boat sinks
Shortly before Ian made landfall, a boat carrying migrants sank, leaving 23 people missing and four survivors.
Walter Slosar, Miami's chief patrol agent, said US authorities responded to a "migrant landing in Stock Island, Florida."
"Four Cuban migrants swam to shore after their vessel sank due to inclement weather," Slosar wrote on Twitter.
#BREAKING: U.S. Border Patrol agents along with support from @mcsonews responded to a migrant landing in Stock Island #Florida. 4 Cuban migrants swam to shore after their vessel sank due to inclement weather. @USCGSoutheast initiated a #SAR operation to search for 23 individuals. pic.twitter.com/yUurGfSOSe— Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar (@USBPChiefMIP) September 28, 2022
Worse is yet to come
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this was all a "drop in the bucket" compared to what was expected over the next 48 hours.
"This is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days," DeSantis said, urging residents in the storm's path to seek shelter.
Warning of a looming trail of destruction, National Weather Service director Ken Graham said Ian would be "a storm we talk about for many years to come... It's a historic event."
DeSantis said thousands of personnel were assigned to respond to the storm with 250 aircraft, 300 boats and 1,600 high-water vehicles.
Hurricane Ian had battered Cuba as a Category 3 storm just less than 24 hours before nearing Florida.
Scientists have long sounded the alarm over how climate change can hike the intensity of extreme weather events.