Last Updated on September 28, 2022
Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified off Florida’s southeast coast Wednesday morning, strengthening to top winds of 155 mph, just shy of a category 5 hurricane. The Sarasota and Naples regions are at risk of suffering the most damaging effects of storm surge, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said that it is too late to evacuate some areas of the state.
U.S. Air Force hurricane experts confirmed Ian gained strength over the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, where hurricanes often strengthen before making landfall in the United States. The superstorm strengthened just after battering Cuba, which left the entire island without electricity.
Hurricane Ian was centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west-southwest of Naples at 7 a.m., swirling toward the coast at 10 mph.
“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days,” Governor DeSantis said during a press conference early Wednesday morning. “This is going to be a rough stretch.”
The hurricane was on track to make landfall just north of the Fort Meyers area, around 125 miles south of Tampa. The Fort Myers area is popular with retirees and tourists
The storm is expected to spare Florida’s bay area from a rare direct hit hurricane.
Hurricane experts have warned of catastrophic storm surges raising the water level as much as 12 feet (3.6 meters) to 16 feet (4.9 meters) above ground level in coastal areas around Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, which lay between Sarasota and Naples.
Over 2.5 million people were placed under mandatory evacuation orders, though no one is mandated to flee by law.
“You can’t do anything about natural disasters,” Florida resident Vinod Nair told Breitbart News. Nair opted to heed state evacuation orders and drive inland from the Tampa area with his wife, son, dog and two kittens. “We live in a high-risk zone, so we thought it best to evacuate.”
The first hurricane hurricane-force winds were recorded around 6 a.m. well in advance of the eyewall moving inland.