Hurricane Ian: Cars float in flooded water
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Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, has made landfall in Florida as of 3.10pm local time (9.10pm BST). The US National Hurrican Centre said it was an “extremely dangerous” weather event, which has already seen flooding and destruction – and left one million homes in the region without power.
It comes as twenty three people reportedly remain unaccounted for after a boat carrying Cuban migrants sunk off the coast of the US state.
As of 11am local time this morning (4pm BST), Hurricane Ian had been 50 miles off the Gulf coast with winds of 155mph.
According to US news outlet BNO, officials said four people were able to swim to shore after the boat sank out of the 27 believed to be on board.
Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar, from the Miami station of the US Border Patrol, reportedly said four Cuban migrants swam to shore on Stock Island.
He added that their vessel sank during bad weather linked to Hurricane Ian.
The US coast guard initiated a search-and-rescue operation as the storm edged closer to making landfall, with flooding seen in Fort Myers at around 6pm BST.
Hurricane Ian has already brought fierce winds and flooding (Image: Getty)
The hurricane was expected to crash into Florida at around 2pm local time (7pm BST) in Charlotte County, about 100 miles south of Tampa and just north of Fort Myers. It hit land just west of Fort Myers this afternoon.
The region is home to miles of sandy beaches, scores of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks.
The US National Hurricane Center said earlier today that the storm was just shy of being designated a Category 5 – the most severe classification with sustained winds of at least 157mph.
It said, though, that Hurricane Ian was expected to weaken after hitting land.
The hurricane was expected to crash into Florida at around 2pm local time (7pm BST) (Image: Getty)
As of 11am local time (4pm BST), Hurricane Ian was 50 miles off the Gulf coast (Image: Getty)
Forecasters say it will unleash a wind-driven high surf, torrential rains that may cause coastal flooding of up to 3.7metres, along with intense thunderstorms and the potential for tornadoes.
Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, commented earlier: “I wish this wasn’t a forecast that was about to come true.
“This is a storm that we will talk about for many years to come, an historic event.”
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said: “This is going to be a nasty, nasty day or two days. This is going to be a rough stretch.”
Earlier this week, authorities in the region told more than 2.5 million residents to evacuate (Image: Getty)
Earlier this week, authorities in the region told more than 2.5 million residents to evacuate over safety concerns.
For those who stayed, as of Wednesday morning, over 169,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power, though this has since risen again significantly.
Scientists believe that climate change is making hurricanes more intense with higher winds and more water – and Hurricane Ian may be an example of this.
There is also evidence to suggest that the change in the average global temperature also means that storms travel slower, meaning they are able to dump more water on one specific locale, with potentially devastating effects.
Forecasters say it will unleash a wind-driven high surf, torrential rains that cause flooding (Image: Getty)
Kait Parker, a meteorologist and climate scientist with IBM’s weather arm, said: “Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification could prove to be another example of how a warming planet is changing hurricanes.
“Research shows we are seeing this far more often than we did in decades past.”
Joe Biden vowed that the federal Government would help Florida once the storm had passed.
The US President told an event in Washington: “We are on alert and in action; we’ve approved every request Florida has made.”
The US National Hurricane Center update at 5PM EST (10PM GMT) noted that the storm warnings have expanded to North Carolina, according to CNN.
A tropical storm warning has been extended northwards to Surf City while a tropical storm watch has been issued from north of Surf City to Cape Lookout.
A storm surge watch has also been issued north of South Santee River South Carolina to Little River Inlet.
An extreme weather warning is also in place for parts of southwest Florida until 7: 30PM EST (11: 30AM GMT).
The US National Weather Service (NWS) issued extreme weather warnings for Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers.
The NWS warned residents of an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation”, urging people to stay inside.
Fort Myer in Florida on Wednesday (Image: Getty Images )
Over 1.3million people are now without power in Florida, according to PowerOutage.us.
Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Cape Coral, is the most impacted with more than 403,000 customers impacted.
There are 179,000 customers without power in Collier County which includes Naples and Marco Island.
In Sarasota County, which includes Sarasota and Siesta Key, there are 214,000 without power.
In Florida, officials have prepared for rescue efforts when it’s safe to do so.
Kevin Guthrie, Florida Department of Emergency Management director, said during a news conference on Wednesday that the state would prepare rescue efforts from the sea, land and air.
He also asked that individuals should not take their own boats or attempt to perform rescues themselves.
The state’s Governor Ron DeSantis reiterated these calls adding that help would come when emergency responders were not at risk.
He said: “Local first responders will deploy as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“By and large until the storm passes, they are not going to go into a situation for rescue and put their own folks at risk.”
According to CNN, President Joe Biden has spoken to the mayor of Fort Myers Kevin Anderson.
The White House said that Mr Biden left messages with the mayors of Cape Coral, Sarasota and the chair of Charlotte County as he was unable to reach them.
According to a Facebook post by officials in Charlotte County, Florida, a curfew will be enforced across the whole county on Wednesday evening from 9PM EST (2AM GMT) to 6am EST (1PM GMT) on Thursday.
“The curfew will be in place until further notice. Violation of the curfew is a misdemeanour. The curfew applies to all citizens (with exceptions of emergency personnel and those commuting to and from work),” the post said.
It comes as Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on Wednesday ahead of the hurricane’s expected impact on the state, as a result resources can be freed up for a response to the storm.
North Carolina Governor.Roy Cooper and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency in their states ahead of the storm.