Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday in Southwest Florida as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S., packing winds just shy of Category 5 strength.
During an evening news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, as predicted, officials have seen life-threatening storm surge in parts of the state and major flooding. He said first responders will deploy in those areas as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“We are getting some reports of structural damage in both Lee and Charlotte counties, but I would say, overwhelmingly, it’s been that surge that has been the biggest issue and the flooding that has been a result of that. In some areas, we think it’s hit 12 feet,” DeSantis said at a 5 p.m. news conference.
When it comes to the storm’s intensity, the governor compared the hurricane to previous storms that devastated parts of the state.
“I think at landfall, it’s going to be behind only the Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Michael, in terms of intensity, DeSantis said. “I think we’re going to end up seeing that it may end up being a Category 5, but at a minimum it’s going to be a very strong Category 4 that’s going to rank as one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula.”
As far as electricity, the governor at 5 p.m. said there were more than 1.1 million reported power outages in the state.
“There are crews that are still working outside of Southwest Florida, but just understand that number is going to grow,” he said.
DeSantis said there were 100 portable cellphone towers ready to be deployed. Approximately 42,000 linemen have been positioned all across Florida.
About 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate southwest Florida before Ian hit, but by law no one could be forced to flee. Though expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it marched inland at about 9 mph (14 kph), Ian’s hurricane force winds were likely to be felt well into central Florida.