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As it happened: WLRN's Hurricane Ian blog

Published September 26, 2022 at 9:55 AM EDT
 Composite satellite image of Hurricane Ian over the Atlantic on Sept. 29
Composite satellite image of Hurricane Ian over the Atlantic on Sept. 29

This coverage has now concluded. Check here for news on Hurricane Ian as it impacted South Florida.

What you need to know:

  • Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just off Fort Myers, at 3:05 p.m. on Wednesday, with sustained winds of 150 mph. It brought devastating wind, flooding and storm surge damage to the surrounding Gulf Coast area
  • According to the NHC, the storm made its second U.S. landfall in Georgetown, South Carolina, at 2:05 p.m. Friday as a Category 1 storm.
  • At 5 p.m. Friday it was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. South Carolina was no longer under a hurricane warning, but the NHC warned the threat of dangerous storm surge, flash flooding and high winds continued
  • Search and rescue efforts are set to continue across Florida. A preliminary 21 deaths have been reported as of Friday afternoon
  • Two deaths have been reported in Cuba, with heavy damage, island-wide power outage and 'apocalyptic' economic damage
  • Click here for our full coverage of Ian

Your generous support ensures that this trusted public news service is accessible to all, no matter what. Please donate today.

Ian is now a post-tropical cyclone

Posted September 30, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT

Ian has now dropped to the category of a post-tropical cyclone.

In its 5 p.m. ET advisory Friday, the National Hurricane Center said Ian has been downgraded from a hurricane to what is considered a “post-tropical cyclone” with sustained winds of 70 mph.

All hurricane warnings and watches have been discontinued, according to officials.

While Ian has been downgraded, the NHC emphasizes the threat of flash flooding and high winds that may occur.

To make a donation or volunteer

Posted September 30, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT

Evacuees - and their pets - find refuge in Palm Beach County hotels

Posted September 30, 2022 at 5:12 PM EDT
Hurricane Ian evacuee Mark Gambla left his home on Snead Island, in Manatee County
Wilkine Brutus
Hurricane Ian evacuee Mark Gambla left his home on Snead Island, in Manatee County

Hotel bookings in Palm Beach County surged as many people living in the epicenter of Hurricane Ian, in Southwest Florida, drove east to find shelter — for themselves and their pets.

Mark Gambla, an evacuee who booked his room days before Hurricane Ian made landfall, said he left because his home on Snead Island, in Manatee County, is surrounded by 3 bodies of water. He arrived at the Holiday Inn in West Palm Beach with his wife, two daughters, son in law, and their pets.

"It's a very mixed bag of people," he said. "Everybody was concerned about their homes. A lot of pet lovers here. I've never seen so many dogs being walked in one little hotel in my life. There was a lot of people here and this place was packed. "

Christine Whitney, the Assistant General Manager at the Holiday Inn-Palm Beach, said they’re in the slow season and that this is the highest occupancy they’ve had this season. They have been 100 percent full some days this week.

She said staff accommodates evacuees by extending their stay, giving them priority, and waiving certain fees. One woman was especially relieved.

"She came to check in and she had a couple of pets dogs with her. And when I told her that we would not charge the pet fee and she started crying and was really grateful about that," she said.

Nearly 70 percent of people at the hotel are people who evacuated from the Gulf Coast, she said.

Gambla’s home is located in the lowest threshold for a flood plain but before he left the hotel, he told WLRN that he’s confident about the future of living on Florida’s coastlines.

“If my house floated away, would I rebuild right there? I don't know. I love Florida, though. I love the weather. And growing up in Chicago and working in construction, I've been in the brutal elements and I don't miss it,” Gambla said. “They say there's a price for sunshine. And if this is part of that price, I'm willing to accept it. Insurance is the only other issue going on here."

Getting in touch with loved ones in the aftermath of Ian

Posted September 30, 2022 at 4:55 PM EDT

Many people have not been able to get in touch with their loved ones in areas struck by Ian. If you are having trouble getting in contact with someone, here are some numbers you can call:

▪ Collier County 

  • Collier County information line: 239-252-8444 
  • Non-emergency line: 239-252-9300. 

▪ Lee County

  • Non-emergency lines: 239-337-2000 & 239-477-1000.

▪ Charlotte County 

  • County emergency operations call center: 941-743-1320. 

▪ Sarasota County

  • County non-emergency line: 941-316-1201. 

▪ Orange County

  • Non-emergency line: 407-836-4357.

▪ Volusia County 

  • Non-emergency line: 386-943-VCSO (8276) 
  • West Volusia area: 386-239-VCSO (8276) 
  • Daytona Beach area: 386-409-VCSO (8276) 
  • New Smyrna Beach: 407-323-0151 

▪ Flagler County

  • Non-emergency line: 386-313-4911. 

▪St. Johns County

  • Non-emergency line: 904-824-8304.

The National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System are collecting information from individuals to assist in reuniting a family that has been displaced due to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency. To register with NEFRLS, or if you wish to find out about someone's status, call 1-800-588-9822 or visit this site.

FloridaDisaster.org has set up an emergency service request form for friends and family members to complete on behalf of themselves or their loved ones to help rescue workers locate them as quickly as possible. You can find that form here.

Six injured in South Beach as high tides are compounded by swells from Ian

Posted September 30, 2022 at 4:39 PM EDT

Swells produced by Hurricane Ian combined with the high tide and King Tide to create dangerous conditions in the sea around Miami Beach.

At South Pointe Pier, in the southern tip of South Beach, six people were reportedly injured after a wave swept them towards Government Cut.

Here is another angle:

‘Everything is gone.’ Rising river imperils rural Southwest Florida towns

Posted September 30, 2022 at 4:23 PM EDT
In Arcadia, Enrique Sánchez points to an area flooded by the rising waters of the Peace River on Sept. 30, 2022. The rural area of Southwest Florida were hit hard by rains from Hurricane Ian
Miami Herald
In Arcadia, Enrique Sánchez points to an area flooded by the rising waters of the Peace River on Sept. 30, 2022. The rural area of Southwest Florida were hit hard by rains from Hurricane Ian

As the death toll continued to rise in Florida from Hurricane Ian, search-and-rescue teams began turning attention to the inland counties of Southwest Florida, where a dangerously engorged river collapsed a bridge, trapped residents in homes and destroyed businesses.

The overflowing Peace River, by Thursday afternoon, had flooded to historic levels, swamping Arcadia in DeSoto County — a poor, agricultural region often known as Florida’s Heartland. In Arcadia, Enrique Sánchez’s machine and painting business was lost.

His building is normally about a tenth of a mile from the banks of the river. Like many Floridians, he does not have flood insurance.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

'They need a lot of help': Broward Sheriff's Office and Fire Rescue pitch into Southwest Florida efforts

Posted September 30, 2022 at 4:03 PM EDT

Search and rescue teams deployed to Southwest Florida are looking for victims and survivors as they comb the rubble left behind by Hurricane Ian.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office has dispatched two dozen staffers to help with storm recovery, according to Mike Nugent, Division Chief of Special Operations Command for BSO Fire Rescue.

As of Friday morning, Nugent says members of BSO’s technical rescue and hazmat teams were working in the areas of Fort Myers Beach and Pine Island, where the storm obliterated buildings with devastating winds and life-threatening storm surge.

“First thing we’ll do is what’s known as a hasty search. Yell, shout, find the walking wounded or anybody moving,” Nugent said. “Then that will be followed up with more personnel, more search dogs, listening equipment. Try to find a positive identification.”

Nugent says the teams will work with local authorities if and when they recover anyone who died in the storm and its aftermath. As of Friday morning, state officials put the preliminary death toll at 21 people, though so far only one death has been confirmed as associated with Hurricane Ian.

“It takes a special type of individual to deal with these people who…they’ve lost everything. They're looking through the rubble to find whatever they have left,” Nugent said. “You need quite a bit of compassion and empathy to go there and to help these people. They need help. They need a lot of help.”

Biden: 117 rescued so far, as Ian makes second landfall in South Carolina

Posted September 30, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT

President Biden said he has directed federal emergency responders to take every possible action to save lives and get help to survivors of Hurricane Ian.

"Every single minute counts. It’s not just a crisis for Florida, it’s an American crisis," Biden said at the White House on Friday.

The president said at least 117 people had been rescued so far — including a 94-year-old woman who was lifted into a helicopter and a 1-month-old baby.

Biden said Ian is likely to rank among the worst in U.S. history, noting that it could take years to rebuild from the damage.

"We see what you’re going through and we’re with you. We’ll do everything we can for you," Biden said in his message to Floridians.

The president praised utility workers and Red Cross volunteers from around the country who were working to help with recovery.

"At times like these, Americans come together, they put aside politics, they put aside division, and we come together to help each other," he said.

It came as Hurricane Ian created chaos along the South Carolina shore, where the National Hurricane Center said it made landfall south of Georgetown as a Category 1 storm Friday afternoon. The town is about 60 miles northeast of Charleston.

As it arrived, Ian was flooding beach areas and residential neighborhoods with storm surges and massive rainfall, sending seawater flowing over roads.

Listen now: The South Florida Roundup

Posted September 30, 2022 at 1:39 PM EDT

Right now on the South Florida Roundup, WLRN's incoming Keys reporter Gwen Filosa is talking about the effects of Hurricane Ian in Key West and the rest of Monroe County, while FPREN's meteorologist Megan Borowski talks about the storm and the future of Florida when it comes to hurricanes.

"As more development happens along the coastline, we're going to see more damage along the coastline. We're replacing natural flood barriers with development," she said.

Next, host Danny Rivero and WLRN's Environmental Editor Jenny Staletovich will talk about the effects of Florida's cycles of real estate development booms — as well as the implementation of flood systems and other defensive infrastructural developments — on our ability to cope with hurricane strikes.

Listen now on WLRN.

Most of Cuba remains without power - some have started protesting

Posted September 30, 2022 at 1:30 PM EDT
People protest asking for the restoration of the electrical service that collapsed last Tuesday due to the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Bacuranao, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022
Ramon Espinosa
People protest asking for the restoration of the electrical service that collapsed last Tuesday due to the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Bacuranao, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022

Queremos luz!” — “We want the lights back on!” — were the shouts as some Havana residents took to the streets to protest Cuba’s island-wide power outage in the wake of Hurricane Ian this week.

Ian hit only western Cuba. But the powerful storm knocked out electricity from Havana to Santiago in the far east. As Cubans watch scarce food spoil in their dead refrigerators, they’re pushing back — a reminder of last year’s historic anti-government protests.

That’s likely made the island’s communist regime nervous, because more lights now seem to be going back on in Cuba. The official government news outlet Granma reports the western and eastern portions of Cuba’s decrepit power grid are finally being reconnected.

But the Hurricane Ian blackout is a reminder that large and long outages are the norm in Cuba amid the country’s deep economic crisis. That’s a big reason a record number of Cuban migrants are showing up at the U.S. border.

Read more about the Cuban protests here.

Ian deals a direct blow to Dry Tortugas National Park and historic fort

Posted September 30, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
 A damaged section of the moat wall that surrounds Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, following Hurricane Ian.
A damaged section of the moat wall that surrounds Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, following Hurricane Ian.

Dry Tortugas National Park and its famed six-sided fort took a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, just five years after Hurricane Irma toppled the park’s historic moat wall.

Park officials say staff are assessing damage to the 19th century fort and that it will likely take some time to clear debris to make park waters safe before it can reopen.

Fort Jefferson was never completed but is ranked as the third largest fort in the U.S., covering 16 acres. The park service has also closed Big Cypress National Park and parts of Everglades National Park, including the Gulf Coast visitor center and Flamingo.

Climate change makes storms like Ian more common

Posted September 30, 2022 at 12:58 PM EDT

Hurricane Ian was just shy of a Category 5 hurricane when it barreled into Florida. The wind was strong enough to destroy homes, and relentless storm surge and rain flooded entire neighborhoods in a matter of hours.

Storms like Ian are more likely because of human-caused climate change.

Heat is the fuel that makes hurricanes big, powerful and rainy. As humans burn fossil fuels and release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, the amount of heat trapped on Earth rises steadily. The air gets hotter, and the ocean water gets hotter. When a baby hurricane forms in the Atlantic, all that heat is available to help the storm grow.

That's what happened to Ian. When the storm first formed, it was relatively weak. But as it moved over very hot water in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, it grew very quickly.

Read the full story here.

Despite damage, some Tampa Bay region residents say they fared well

Posted September 30, 2022 at 12:41 PM EDT
People who visited Anna Maria Island on Thursday said they were dealing with power outages and minor storm damage, but ultimately felt grateful Ian had spared them the worst
Stephanie Colombini
People who visited Anna Maria Island on Thursday said they were dealing with power outages and minor storm damage, but ultimately felt grateful Ian had spared them the worst

Many residents in the Tampa Bay region are feeling lucky after Hurricane Ian spared them from the more severe damage it inflicted on other parts of Florida.

But signs of the storm were still evident on the barrier islands of Manatee County a day after the storm made landfall in Southwest Florida. More than 100,000 people in the county were without power as of Thursday afternoon. Still residents say things could have been much worse.

Driving onto Anna Maria Island, there were downed palm trees and broken store signs. Some traffic lights were out and the occasional street was covered in floodwater. But the clearest remnant of Ian's presence was on the beach, where wind howled and the usually calm Gulf of Mexico waters were filled with choppy waves. Windows on waterfront condos and homes were shuttered to protect against the storm.

This was one of many coastal communities in the region where officials ordered residents to evacuate as Hurricane Ian was forecast to hit the Tampa area. But not everyone left, hoping it would steer clear as it did.

Read the full story at our sister station WUSF.

Where Florida's power outages, roads and bridges stand, by the numbers

Posted September 30, 2022 at 12:09 PM EDT

Florida officials gave an update on Friday morning about where the state's power outages and restoration efforts stand.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said that 1.9 million customers were still without power as of 6 a.m. ET. The hardest-hit counties are:

  • Hardee, where 99% of people are out of power
  • Charlotte and Lee counties, which are 85% out of power
  • DeSoto, which is at 80% without

Close to half of customers in Sarasota, Collier and Manatee counties are without power, while about 15-18% of those in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are experiencing outages.
DeSantis said crews of some 42,000 linemen and associated personnel have been working on the ground 24/7 since the moment it was safe to do so.

He also mentioned that 117 healthcare facilities lost power but have since had it restored. Six facilities in southwest Florida evacuated their patients to due prolonged problems with either power or water, he added.

Florida's Department of Transportation has cleared more than 1,100 miles of roadway, DeSantis said, noting that traffic is flowing in many places despite the fact that several of the bridges that experienced structural problems (in Pine Island and Sanibel) will have to be rebuilt.

Authorities have inspected and reopened 800 bridges across the state, including 67 designated high-priority bridges in Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

National Weather Service has confirmed a "strong" tornado struck Palm Beach County

Posted September 30, 2022 at 11:40 AM EDT

The National Weather Service Miami-South Florida confirmed that the tornado that ravaged homes in Kings Point, a senior neighborhood west of Delray beach, earlier this week was an EF-2 tornado, packing peak winds of 125 mph.

The first identified damage from the EF-2 tornado occurred at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where it tore off the sides of a building. And, according to the preliminary report, "EF-0 damage was noted at the American Heritage School just south of Linton Blvd."

The EF-2 tornado hit Kings Point community shortly after. The tornado lifted off a roof in another community, the Village of Oriole, and then finally hit a Home Depot parking lot on Jog Road and Atlantic Blvd. Here is the report.

EF scale — the Enhanced Fujita scale classifies tornadoes into the following categories:

EF0...weak......65 to 85 mph
EF1...weak......86 to 110 mph
EF2...strong....111 to 135 mph
EF3...strong....136 to 165 mph
EF4...violent...166 to 200 mph
EF5...violent...>200 mph*

Ian leaves destruction, and death, near landfall

Posted September 30, 2022 at 11:33 AM EDT

The Miami Herald's Joey Flechas, alongside photojournalist Matias J. Ocner, filed this report from Matlacha, one of the first locations to be hit by Ian upon landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast:

 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers survey damage in Matlacha after Hurricane Ian.
Miami Herald
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers survey damage in Matlacha after Hurricane Ian.

Many of the colorful cottages, boutiques and restaurants that made this artsy little fishing village famous and fun are gone or battered now, swallowed by surge or broken by wind. Boats have been flung into yards, homes flung into water.

Kayaks hang in mangroves like ornaments. Mud covers broken pottery and furniture. And Thursday, just a day after Category 4 Hurricane Ian tore through Matlacha, a body floated in front of the ruins of one home. Stunned residents say others have been found.

On Thursday, some of them gathered to reconnect and to start picking up the pieces. With a section of Pine Island Road gone just east of the Matlacha Pass Bridge, the only way to return was by boat. But a few also had decided to ride Ian out.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

Florida officials put the preliminary death toll at 21, with only 1 confirmed

Posted September 30, 2022 at 10:52 AM EDT
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
Phelan M. Ebenhack
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

Officials in Florida have confirmed one fatality associated with Hurricane Ian and 20 other deaths that could potentially be a result of the storm.

At a press briefing on Friday morning, Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said that the single confirmed fatality happened in Polk County, which is in the central part of the state.

Of the unconfirmed fatalities, eight were in Collier County and 12 were in Charlotte County. Guthrie said responders are still conducting search efforts in Lee County.

He also referenced a "situation" in which a coast guard rescue swimmer was able to swim into a house where water was "up over the rooftop" and found what appeared to be human remains. Guthrie said the exact number is unclear, and did not elaborate on where the house was located.

He declined to answer a question about how many people are missing, saying that information must come from local law enforcement. He did say that the state has sent surveys to more than 20,000 Floridians who sheltered in place, and that more than 10,000 have responded already to say that they are safe.

It's up to medical examiners at the local level to investigate deaths and determine whether they were directly related to elements of the hurricane — like storm surge and rising waters — or whether they happened in the lead-up or aftermath of the storm.

It's critically important for people to stay alert as they go about cleaning up, Guthrie warned. He stressed the importance of personal responsibility in several areas:

Generator safety: Portable generators should only be run outside and away from water. Guthrie says officials are getting reports of people operating generators inside garages, just outside of windows with cords running through them or dangerously close to puddles of water. He stressed the state is having carbon monoxide issues, though not necessarily deaths.

Chainsaws, ladders and wires: "If you don't know what it is, don't cut it," Guthrie said. "If you don't know how to cut it, don't cut it." He urged people to watch for downed wires when clearing up debris and rely on professionals for help.

Clearing debris: Guthrie said more information will come at a briefing later today, but that people who are starting to clean up their properties now must separate items into piles: vegetation, structural, household hazardous waste, electronics and appliances. People should wear boots, gloves and goggles while doing that. And if things are too heavy for you to move, get help, he added, pointing that responders and even faith-based and community volunteers will be willing to assist.

"These are absolutely avoidable deaths and absolutely avoidable injuries," he said.

The storm has left Florida, but people should still keep their guard up

Posted September 30, 2022 at 10:20 AM EDT
People survey damage to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Valrico, Fla., just east of Tampa.
Chris O'Meara
People survey damage to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Valrico, Fla., just east of Tampa.

Communities in Florida are starting to take stock of the hurricane damage. Insurance claims by businesses and homeowners are expected to be as high as $40-50 billion.

NPR's Greg Allan saw some of that destruction firsthand.

He toldMorning Edition that while some bridges and piers were destroyed by the storm, the roads he was driving on were mostly clear of debris. Power is slowly coming back to parts of the state: Some 200,000 customers regained power in southwest Florida yesterday, though some 2 million are still without it.

Still, places like the barrier islands will need to rebuild their infrastructure from the ground up, which will take time. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says cell phone service should improve as phone companies start bringing in portable cell towers.

There's been no official word on fatalities yet, though local officials put that number at about a dozen so far.

Authorities are warning people to be careful with things like portable generators and chainsaws in the aftermath of the storm — since those sorts of accidents have historically accounted for more deaths than the weather itself. Here are tips for dealing with power outages.

Coverage of Ian's devastation in Southwest Florida

Posted September 30, 2022 at 10:06 AM EDT
Damaged homes and debris are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee
Damaged homes and debris are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.

Staff at WLRN's sister station WGCU in Southwest Florida have been working through the toughest conditions to provide updates on the area that was hit the hardest by Hurricane Ian.

Two dead and twelve injured were confirmed at an update on Hurricane Ian's effect on Sanibel Island by Mayor Holly Smith. Read the full story here.

As region-wide destruction began to come into focus, the station's Gulf Coast Life show connected with reporters and producers on the field surveying damage to try to get a sense of what the area is facing. Listen here.

Kinfay Moroti, a Fort Myers photographer, found power, hopelessness and hope in a variety of images taken following the deadly passage of Hurricane Ian in Southwest Florida. See the photos here.

Lonnie Garretson cries upon seeing damage to mobile homes and flooding in Suncoast Estates in North Fort Myers, on Sept. 29. "This hurts deeply," said Garretson. Garretson has lived in the trailer park community since 1967.
Lonnie Garretson cries upon seeing damage to mobile homes and flooding in Suncoast Estates in North Fort Myers, on Sept. 29. "This hurts deeply," said Garretson. Garretson has lived in the trailer park community since 1967.

This story takes a look at the search, recovery and damage assessment efforts via land, sea, and air in the most devastated portions of Lee County, where Hurricane Ian made landfall

Hundreds of Floridians were rescued from flooded homes. NPR spoke to some

Posted September 30, 2022 at 9:46 AM EDT
First responders with Orange County Fire Rescue use an inflatable boat to rescue a resident from a home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
Phelan M. Ebenhack
First responders with Orange County Fire Rescue use an inflatable boat to rescue a resident from a home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

Hurricane Ian is poised to make landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm today after devastating parts of Florida on Wednesday.

Since then, communities along Florida's Gulf Coast have begun the process of rescue and recovery. NPR's Greg Allen visited some of the hardest-hit areas yesterday, and spoke to Morning Edition about what he saw (you can listen here).

Lee and Charlotte counties took the most direct hit, with the low-lying barrier islands getting the brunt of the storm surge.

"On Fort Myers Beach, houses were just wiped away, leaving only slabs behind," Allen says. "Boats were tossed around and piled up in the marinas and on land by the storm surge. On Sanibel Island, several sections of the community's only causeway were washed away. That leaves residents there without power or water, and cut off from the mainland."

Rescue personnel search a flooded trailer park after Hurricane Ian passed by the area Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.
Steve Helber
Rescue personnel search a flooded trailer park after Hurricane Ian passed by the area Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said yesterday that some residents of Sanibel have declined evacuation offers by rescue crews. But some 700 people throughout the state were rescued from flooded homes, a number that could turn out to be much higher.

In Charlotte County, NPR journalists saw water as much as 6 feet deep in some places. In North Port, they saw a group of neighbors using small boats to ferry people, pets and possessions out of flooded homes.

Craig Brown, his wife Kelly and son Jonas used two kayaks to paddle themselves, their dog and two cats to safety. Kelly says the storm surge flooded their neighborhood's canals and sent more than 3 feet of water into their house. How did they get out?

"If you have family or somebody that has a kayak or something, people are getting themselves out," she says.

A local rescue crew arrived that afternoon, in a scene that played out in communities across the state.

Downtown St. Augustine under water after Ian blows through

Posted September 30, 2022 at 8:07 AM EDT
State Road A1A in downtown St. Augustine flooded during Tropical Storm Ian.
State Road A1A in downtown St. Augustine flooded during Tropical Storm Ian.

Downtown St. Augustine felt the force of Tropical Storm Ian on Thursday as water breached the seawall and rushed into the historic city.

By afternoon, water had flooded State Road A1A near the Bridge of Lions and pushed inland toward North Ponce De Leon Boulevard.

Significant flooding also hit St. Hastings, Flagler Estates and other low-lying areas, comparable to what the region experienced during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, said County Administrator Hunter Conrad.

Read the full story here.

Night falls as Hurricane Ian heads towards South Carolina

Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:35 PM EDT
Animated loop of composite satellite images of Hurricane Ian as it approaches South Carolina on Sept. 29
Animated loop of composite satellite images of Hurricane Ian as it approaches South Carolina on Sept. 29

This NOAA animated loop, made up of composite satellite images, shows night falling on Hurricane Ian as it swirls and travels north over the Atlantic.

It is expected to make landfall in South Carolina on Friday evening.

Over the last two days, the storm spent around 20 hours over the Florida peninsula, leaving devastating damage and a number of deaths in its wake as it made its way from a Gulf Coast landfall to the east coast of the state.

More than 2.5 million Florida students have missed school during Hurricane Ian

Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:26 PM EDT

Millions of K-12 students missed school this week in Florida, as nearly every public school district in the state closed its buildings during the onslaught of Hurricane Ian.

At least 55 of Florida's 67 public school districts closed for at least one day, according to the state's department of education, district websites and social media. The districts that remained open were largely in the state's panhandle.

That amounts to more than 2.5 million students out of school, based on the most recently available federal data on public school enrollment. Around 1.7 million of those students missed three days or more, and several districts have yet to announce their reopening plans.

Hillsborough County Public Schools, which includes Tampa and is one of the largest districts affected, closed for all five days to prepare its schools to serve as emergency shelters. With more than 200,000 students, the district is the nation's 6th largest.

Read the full story here.

'Within minutes we encountered numerous individuals that required assistance' - Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:14 PM EDT

Nintey-six members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s task force one are deployed along communities on Florida’s west coast to do search and rescue work.

Chief Ray Jadallah said the teams are walking miles to reach people because a lot of roads are blocked. They started first on islands without road access from the mainland.

"To access these islands the only way in was through helicopters. Within minutes we encountered numerous individuals that required assistance. Many of the individuals had minor injuries, were dehydrated and requested assistance off the island," he told WLRN.

The task force is working with paramedics, structural engineers, HazMat and rescue technicians, among others. They have their own sleeping areas, food, medical equipment and supplies so as to not ask anything of the communities they are helping.

Reports: 13 deaths in Florida so far, another two being investigated

Posted September 29, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
Phelan M. Ebenhack
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

President Biden said Hurricane Ian could be the "deadliest" hurricane in Florida history, but until this afternoon there had been only one reported death in the state.

That was a 72-year-old man in Deltona — between Orlando and the Space Coast — who died after falling down an incline while draining his pool.

But this evening, as rescue crews continue to work in the worst affected areas, more reports are coming in. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement earlier confirmed that a 38-year-old man in Lake County — west of Orlando — was killed when his car hydroplaned in rainy conditions.

Now the News Service of Florida is reporting that officials in Charlotte County and Lee County — the two counties closest to Hurricane Ian's landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast — have confirmed six and five deaths in their areas, respectively.

The Miami Herald said that a Charlotte County spokesperson could not confirm any numbers, only that "there have been deaths". In turn, the newspaper reported that Sarasota County is investigating two deaths related to the hurricane.

Claudine Buzzo, of Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403, told the Herald that calculating the death toll may be a slow process, as search teams must go grid-by-grid, one house at a time. “Usually the fatalities — it takes days to figure out,” she said.

This morning, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on the television show Good Morning America that fatalities were "in the hundreds." He later said he couldn’t “give a true assessment” until authorities got to the scene.

5 p.m. NHC advisory: Ian is a hurricane once again

Posted September 29, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
Hurricane Ian's projected track as of 5 p.m. on Sept. 29.
Hurricane Ian's projected track as of 5 p.m. on Sept. 29.

In its 5 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center confirmed that, as projected, Ian had once again become a hurricane. The service informed the storm was located 240 miles south of Charleston, moving at 10 mph with sustained winds of 75 mph.

It is "taking aim at the Carolinas and Georgia with life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds" and appears set to make landfall sometime Friday evening. The entire South Carolina coast is under a hurricane warning.

      Mayor: Tampa fared 'comparatively' well and helping SW Florida is a priority

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 3:28 PM EDT
      People survey damage to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Valrico, Fla., just east of Tampa.
      Chris O'Meara
      People survey damage to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Valrico, Fla., just east of Tampa.

      Noting that “you can’t count on predictions,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Thursday reported that the city fared well during Hurricane Ian but her primary concern was the counties hit hardest by the storm. “Well, if you look at it comparatively, we came through very, very well,” Castor said.

      The mayor said there have been no reports of large-scale flooding in Tampa but that several thousand people remained without power throughout the region. Tampa Electric has been prepared with 3,000 additional line personnel to assist in restoring service, she added.

      Castor reported a number of trees uprooted and streetlights that are out. but the city was in the process of assessment and repairs.

      President Joe Biden, who spoke with Castor on Tuesday, has approved a federal disaster declaration for Florida in the wake of the hurricane. The action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Hillsborough County, as well as Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Hardee, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

      Castor expected no problems in receiving any needed federal resources in Tampa. “But right now, the focus is on sending a whole resources down to our neighbors in the south; you know, they've literally been devastated,” Castor said.

      Read the full story here.

      Schools across South Florida to reopen Friday

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:51 PM EDT

      Schools across South Florida will reopen on Friday, after the region dodged the worst of Hurricane Ian’s devastation.

      Officials in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County have all announced that classes will be back in session tomorrow, after two days of no school. District offices, extracurricular activities and afterschool programs will also be back to normal operations.

      Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said she toured school sites on Thursday with administrators and custodial staff to ensure the campuses are ready to reopen.

      “I want to thank all Broward County Public Schools staff for their efforts during the storm, especially our team on the ground today working to ensure our schools are safe for students and staff on Friday,” Cartwright said in a video update.

      “Our hearts go out to the southwest Florida communities that bore the brunt of the hurricane. Broward County Public Schools stands ready to offer assistance to our sister school districts,” she said.

      Many of South Florida’s higher ed institutions have also reopened after the storm. More information on closures and reopenings is available on the Florida Department of Education’s website. Check what else is open or closed here.

      Biden move set to help bring fuel to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:37 PM EDT

      The U.S. is temporarily waiving the Jones Act, allowing non-U.S.-flagged ships to bring fuel to help Puerto Rico following the crippling strike from Hurricane Fiona. The rule says only U.S.-flagged ships can carry cargo between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland.

      It is badly needed there to keep electrical generators running in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. The storm struck southern and western Puerto Rico 11 days ago but knocked out power for most of the island. Hundreds of thousands are still without electricity, mostly in Puerto Rico’s hard-hit south and west.

      That has created a public relations crisis for LUMA Energy, the San Juan-based company responsible for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s decrepit power grid.

      The mayors of some towns still without power have complained that LUMA threatened to have them arrested if they and local volunteers tried to fix fallen electrical posts. LUMA insists that effort is dangerous and should be left to its professionals. The mayors say residents are growing desperate.

      Biden: Ian could be 'deadliest' in history

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:53 PM EDT

      President Joe Biden on Thursday warned that Hurricane Ian could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history but pledged that the country would come together to help the state rebuild.

      “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” Biden said, speaking from FEMA’s headquarters in Washington. “The numbers are still unclear. But we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”

      Speaking to Good Morning America Thursday, the Sheriff of hard-hit Lee County said “hundreds” may have died in the storm, though the outlet later clarified that the sheriff “didn’t yet know the exact number.” The death toll from Ian remains unconfirmed, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

      Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.

      One dead, many trapped in Florida as Ian heads toward South Carolina

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:19 PM EDT

      Rescue crews waded through flooded streets and used boats Thursday in a scramble to save people trapped after Hurricane Ian destroyed a cross-section of Florida and brought torrential rains that continued to fall.

      The destruction began to come into focus a day after Ian made landfall in Florida as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit to the U.S. The storm flooded homes on both of the state's coasts, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.5 million Florida homes and businesses. At least one man was confirmed dead.

      “We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told a news conference. “The amount of water that’s been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event.”

      Though downgraded to a tropical storm by Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center said storm surge and flooding rains remained a threat as Ian crept across the Florida peninsula and emerged in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters predicted a northward turn toward South Carolina, and a hurricane warning was issued for the state’s coastline.

      Sheriffs in southwest Florida said 911 centers were inundated by thousands of stranded callers, some with life-threatening emergencies. The U.S. Coast Guard began rescue efforts around daybreak on barrier islands near where the Ian struck, DeSantis said. Fire departments fanned out in flooded areas as well.

      Read the story here.

      Schools may be closed, but students can still learn

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 12:42 PM EDT

      Public schools across South Florida remain closed on Thursday due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian – but educators are hoping students will still crack open a book. Class may be canceled but if students have power and internet access, there’s a lot of learning that can be done, they say.

      As of Thursday, public libraries in Broward County are back open. And even while libraries in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties remain closed, their websites aren’t. Audiobooks and digital comic books, magazines and music collections are all still available with a library card. Some branches are also hosting virtual events.

      Educators also say it’s an important time to support kids’ mental and emotional needs – by helping them process the impacts of the storm. The National Association of School Psychologists has developed this tip sheet on how to help children cope with large-scale disasters.

      As of noon on Thursday, officials in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have announced that public schools will reopen on Friday.

      Videos: Devastating damage in Fort Myers Beach

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 12:27 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian made landfall just off Fort Myers Beach, and the town woke up today to scenes of devastation.

      One user, who asked to be identified as Bobby Pratt, has been sharing heartbreaking videos and images on his Twitter account.

      The social media posts show yachts washed ashore, a whole shopping area ripped apart and the city's pier destroyed.

      DeSantis: Rescue efforts in the Gulf Coast are underway, Florida to experience 'broad impacts' from Ian

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 11:17 AM EDT

      As soon as the Category four winds of Hurricane Ian died down along Florida's west coast, rescue efforts began for Floridians trapped in their homes by the monster storm, Governor Ron DeSantis said in his morning press briefing today.

      Nine Florida counties have received a federal disaster declaration, activating individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those counties include Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Lee, Pinellas, Sarasota, Hardee and Manatee counties.

      As of 6 a.m. Thursday morning, 1.5 million people in southwest Florida lost power. Charlotte and Lee counties are effectively "off the grid," requiring that infrastructure be rebuilt rather than restored, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

      Most of Interstate 75 has been reopened by state transportation officials in Ian's aftermath. Some major roadways weren't as lucky. The major hurricane severed the Sanibel Causeway connecting the barrier island to the mainland of Fort Myers. State emergency management crews will be inspecting bridges for stability before opening.

      Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie urged people to avoid touring neighborhoods for storm damage. "We're coming in full force," Guthrie said. "We've got a lot of people coming in there. We need you out of our way so we can get our job done."

      Relief efforts will be funneled to the hardest hit areas such as Charlotte and Lee counties. But Governor Ron DeSantis said that we will continue to see widespread impacts across on the state, particularly inland areas where standing water is likely.

      "This storm is having broad impacts across the state. Some of the flooding you're gonna see in areas hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records," DeSantis said.

      Close to 30 Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters have been deployed to help search and rescue efforts and more than 300 trucks of food and supplies are en route to the Gulf Coast.

      The governor encouraged Floridians to help by donating to https://www.floridadisaster.org/.

      11 a.m. NHC advisory: Hurricane warning for South Carolina

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 11:13 AM EDT

      According to the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Ian is now back in the Atlantic, located around 25 miles north-northeast of Cape Canaveral in Florida's east coast.

      The latest forecast model projects it to become a Category 1 hurricane as it moves up alongside the coast before turning towards South Carolina.

      Tropical storm Ian projected to become a hurricane again in the 11 a.m. forecast model from the NHC
      Tropical storm Ian projected to become a hurricane again in the 11 a.m. forecast model from the NHC

      Iconic Naples Pier has been lost, according to officials

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 10:53 AM EDT

      Naples Pier — one of the city's most iconic structures and top tourist attractions — has been lost to Hurricane Ian, an official said on Thursday.

      Collier County commissioner Penny Taylor said the storm sent waves at least 20 feet high crashing over the historic structure and even tore out its foundation, according to the Associated Press.

      “Right now, there is no pier,” Taylor said.

      The pier has been a hallmark of Naples since it was completed in 1889 (originally to help transport guests to and from the Old Naples Hotel). A recognizable figure at the municipal beach, it stretched 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico and offered panoramic views as well as plenty of space for fishing.

      And for admirers who don't live nearby, the Naples Pier live cam streams 360-degree views of the scene, including many a sunrise and sunset.

      In fact, the cameras were still rolling as Hurricane Ian approached. The live stream is unavailable as of Thursday morning, with the screen showing a still photo of waves crashing over the pier against a gray sky.

      Here's what the storm looked like at the pier, in footage posted to YouTube by the live streaming company EarthCam:

      "It’s hard to fathom life here without this treasure," reads part of a document on the Naples Panorama website about the pier's history.

      It notes that the pier has had some close calls in the last century-plus. It was damaged by a variety of storms (and one fire) throughout the first half of the 20th century and needed to be rebuilt after being totally destroyed by hurricanes in 1910 and 1960.

      The pier hasn't suffered major damage from storms in the past five decades, the fact sheet says, though it has undergone repairs over the years. Its floor boards were replaced in a major 2015 renovation, and it temporarily shut down for repairs after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

      Cuban migrants say they spent five days at sea before losing their boat

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 10:15 AM EDT

      Some of the Cuban migrants who had to swim to shore after they attempted to cross to Florida during Hurricane Ian have now been released to their families, according to WPLG.

      They told the station they had spent five days at sea, after setting off from Matanzas, on Cuba's north coast, in a home made vessel on Friday.

      The U.S. Border Patrol's Miami office yesterday responded to a report of four migrants who had swum to Stock Island, in the Lower Keys, after the boat sank during Hurrican Ian's inclement weather in the area.

      At the time, the U.S. Coast Guard were searching for another 23 people. According to WPLG, four other migrants have been aprehended, leaving another 19 still missing.

      Causeway to Sanibel Island severed

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 9:53 AM EDT
      A section of the causeway leading to Sanibel, Fla., in Lee County was knocked out by Hurricane Ian Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
      Tampa Bay Times via AP
      A section of the causeway leading to Sanibel, Fla., in Lee County was knocked out by Hurricane Ian Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

      As Ian continued its destructive trek across Florida, over a million households across the state awoke on Thursday without electricity as residents and emergency crews along the Gulf Coast began to assess the toppled buildings, flooded streets and crippled infrastructure.

      Across Southwest Florida, where Hurricane Ian made landfall as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the United States, the scenes of devastation were jarring. While there were likely to be deaths across Florida — at least one man was reported killed in Deltona — the number was unclear on Thursday morning.

      A chunk of the causeway to Sanibel Island, the normally idyllic barrier island, was completely severed, making passage across the water impossible. Exactly how many people, if any, remained stranded on the barrier islands was unclear. The mainland road leading to the causeway was folded up like an accordion, a spiral staircase deposited by the winds into the brush next to a pickup truck.

      Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.

      Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Miami head to the Gulf Coast for relief efforts

      Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:33 AM EDT

      As day breaks on the damage of Hurricane Ian — now a tropical storm —in southwest Florida, help is on the way from South Florida.

      Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava gave a send-off Thursday morning to 96 members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (US&R), in addition to the Florida Task Force One (FL-TF1). The teams will be deployed to hurricane-battered areas throughout Florida.

      "Just like Miami-Dade received a world of support after Hurricane Andrew hit us 30 years ago, it's our turn to support our fellow Floridians," Levine-Cava said.

      FL-TF1’s responds to respond to natural and man-made disasters by providing search and rescue support, medical support and communications. They have been deployed nationally and internationally for multiple disasters, such as the building collapse in Surfside or the earthquake responses in Haiti.

      "This is one of the biggest teams deployed to the area, and I am grateful we can lend a helping hand to all those affected by this devastating storm,” said MDFR Fire Chief Raied Jadallah.

      In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, statewide agencies have been on standby to administer relief to the 2 million peoplewithout power and other trapped in their homes by high water. By the end of this weekend, over 2,500 Red Cross responders will be deployed to parts of the state affected by Hurricane Ian, Red Cross President Gail McGovern said.

      "We'll work with our government nonprofit partners and provide shelter, food emergency supplies care, comfort, and hope to the tens of thousands of people in the path of the hurricane.

      The organization said it can always use local volunteers. You can get details on how to volunteer at https://www.redcross.org/.

      Key West is already picking up the pieces from Ian, and bars are open

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 7:50 PM EDT

      Between a fire, fallen trees, flooded streets, power outages, and wrecked cars, the Keys have some work ahead after experiencing the outer bands of Hurricane Ian.

      WLRN’s Florida Keys reporter, Gwen Filosa, has been covering the area and says that with the environment already being so fragile, storm surges and flooding were some of the biggest issues.

      People here, tourists and locals, had a precarious night. Some people’s homes felt like they were shaking. We had tree limbs down, but the water was really problematic this morning. Turns out we had 100 homes in Key West that did take on water that flooded,” she said. “It’s just it’s the trade you make for living here, the risks, you know. We take it when we live here.”

      Filosa says that she’s heard that areas like Bahama Village received about 3 feet of water overnight. In the areas of Duval Street and Old Town, where Filosa is located, she said that the water has receded, debris has been picked up, and the bars are open.

      “Tourists are here, people are working. Bars are a place where locals can gather for some comfort and camaraderie,” she said.

      Monroe County officials and emergency management are telling people that at this time, Hurricane Ian’s storm surge effects could linger until around midnight Wednesday night. A storm surge warning was cancelled for the Lower Keys on Wednesday afternoon.

      DeSantis: Storm will affect Florida for an extended amount of time

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 7:41 PM EDT

      Gov. Ron DeSantis updated Floridians Wednesday afternoon shortly before Hurricane Ian made landfall as it passed over Sanibel and Captiva, and again after Ian officially made landfall in Lee County. Melissa Feito from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network reported that he pressed several points speaking to the public.

      DeSantis urged that residents in Southwest Florida stay indoors until the storm passes. Even if it may seem calm outside, you may be within the eye of the hurricane.

      The governor asked residents in Northeast Florida to brace for impact for when Ian crosses the state. Multiple counties have advised evacuations for residents in low-lying, flood-prone areas and mobile homes.

      The Florida Division of Emergency Management is reporting close to 800,000 power outages statewide as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, and 42,000 personnel are standing by waiting to restore power as soon as conditions allow.

      DeSantis Governor asked that residents stay out of the way of emergency crews and stay off the roads. After storm conditions pass, he asked that evacuees not come rushing back to their homes and wait for emergency crews to clear roadways.

      DeSantis praised state mobilization for this storm, which he said has surpassed that of 2019's Hurricane Dorian. The Florida disaster fund has been activated, if individuals wish to donate money to victims of Ian.

      He emphasized that a storm of this magnitude will affect Florida for an extended amount of time, from weeks to months.

      Prepping to leave: Scenes from the community of Lakewood Ranch

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 7:31 PM EDT

      Category 4 Hurricane Ian has made landfall along Florida’s southwestern coast, causing devastating flooding and power outages. Miami Herald reporter Joey Flechas is hunkered down in a community called Lakewood Ranch, near the border between Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

      Flechas spoke to locals in a region made up of beach towns that don’t have high-rise development.

      "We spoke to a resident of the Venice area who was fascinated by storms and grew up in Indiana and studied tornadoes, and he was excited to experience a hurricane," Flechas told WLRN. "He said as a fallback, if things really got bad, he was going to actually move him and his family to a house further inland they just closed on. Take some mattresses. I have to say, after having been out there, I hope that they did that. We talked to a gentleman in a mobile home park yesterday who said, you know, he was taking off and he was he wasn't going to try to ride out the storm that really looked like it was going to do some serious damage."

      Because of dangerous winds and flooding, Flechas said officials have advice for people in the region.

      "Keep the radio on, listen to what the emergency managers are saying in each of your communities — boil water notices, water conservation efforts if there's issues with the water system and use the resources that you can to connect with the officials so that everybody's on the same page about how to get help and how to survive if the power goes out," he said.

      Flechas and a Herald photojournalist, Matias Ocner, will continue their reporting Thursday by surveying damage and recovery efforts.

      "The hope is that as the winds die down or at least come to come down to a manageable level for us to go out and the rainfall subsides, we want to be able to go see what we can do tomorrow first thing in the morning," Flechas said.

      Hurricane Ian threatens Florida's already unstable insurance market

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 7:25 PM EDT

      Florida’s property insurance market was already in peril. Now comes Hurricane Ian.

      The massive storm that barreled into southwest Florida delivering catastrophic winds, rain and flooding is likely to further damage the insurance market in the state, which has strained under billion-dollar losses, insolvencies and skyrocketing premiums.

      The scale of the storm’s destruction will become more clear in the coming days but there is concern it could exacerbate existing problems and burden a state insurance program that has already seen a sharp increase in policies as homeowners struggle to find coverage in the private market.

      “Florida’s property insurance market was the most volatile in the U.S. before Hurricane Ian formed and will most likely become even more unstable in the wake of the storm,” said Mark Friedlander, communications director at the Insurance Information Institute.

      The private insurance industry has lost more than $1 billion in each of the last two years and hundreds of thousands of Floridians have had their policies dropped or not renewed. Average annual premiums have risen to more than $4,200 in Florida, triple the national average.

      Read more from the Associated Press.

      Tampa Bay Buccaneers temporarily relocate to Miami, hope to be home by Sunday's game

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 7:12 PM EDT

      The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who moved their football operations to South Florida to avoid Hurricane Ian, remain hopeful of being able to return home to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.

      The team practiced at the Miami Dolphins’ training facility on Wednesday, describing the experience as different, but insisting the disruption to their routine will not hinder their ability to prepare for the team they beat in the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

      Family members, and even some pets, accompanied players and coaches in relocating ahead of the storm making landfall on Florida’s west coast.

      “The biggest challenge, I think we’ve already cleared, is just keeping their families safe. Everyone’s loved ones are safe, and that’s No. 1. Houses, and the monetary things, you don’t really worry about. If the family’s safe, you can kind of concentrate on football,” coach Todd Bowles said.

      NFL executive Jeff Miller said Wednesday that the Chiefs-Buccaneers was still scheduled to be played in Tampa on Sunday night.

      If the teams can’t play at Raymond James Stadium — a decision that could be made as late as Friday — the much-anticipated matchup between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes will be moved to Minneapolis.

      Read more from the Associated Press.

      Scenes of extreme flooding and storm surge devastation in the Gulf Coast

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 6:58 PM EDT

      In Fort Myers, very close to where Ian made landfall, one Twitter user posted video of boats being swept by houses as the water level approached the second floor of homes.

      On Fort Myers Beach, more devastation.

      In Bonita Springs, 30 miles south of Fort Myers, the storm surge is "unbelievable".

      Another 15 miles further south on the Gulf Coast of Florida, in Naples, whole houses appear to be getting swept.

      6 p.m. update from FPREN

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT

      The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network bring this overview for South Florida and the whole peninsula.

      "Storm surge has peaked but damaging winds, life-threatening flooding and isolated tornadoes will be threats through tomorrow. Hurricane Ian will likely be a tropical storm near Orlando near sunrise Thursday," the post says.

      South Florida appears on the lower end of their scale for future rain and severe storm risk, although the entire region, apart from the Keys, remains under tropical storm watch.

      UM, FIU, Miami Dade College to resume classes on Thursday

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT

      Some colleges and universities in South Florida will reopen on Thursday, after the region dodged the worst of Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic impacts.

      Miami Dade College, the University of Miami, and Florida International University will resume normal operations, including in-person classes.

      Still, some higher ed institutions aren’t quite ready to reopen their campuses, as the region is expected to continue experiencing tropical storm force winds into Thursday.

      The College of the Florida Keys, Broward College, Palm Beach State College and Florida Atlantic University will remain closed on Thursday.

      Classes at all of South Florida’s K-12 public schools have also been canceled.

      Storm surge in the Keys is expected to peak on Thursday, with coastal flooding impacts continuing into Friday, according to county emergency management officials.

      As of Wednesday evening, Miami-Dade, Browad and Palm Beach Counties remain under threat of possible tornadoes.

      Here's what else will be open and closed on Thursday.

      Ian is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane by wind speed in U.S. history

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian is one of the strongest hurricanes by wind speed that’s ever made landfall in recorded U.S. history.

      Data shared by meteorologist Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University shows Ian tied for fifth place among hurricanes by landfall wind speed.

      According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm came ashore Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa with sustained winds of 150 mph.

      Other recent storms with record wind speeds are Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Michael, which took the fourth spot for strongest hurricane by landfall wind speed when it came ashore in 2018.

      The strongest hurricane by recorded wind speed was the Labor Day storm of 1935, which registered 185 mph at landfall, according to Klotzbach's data.

      But while Hurricane Ian came in at a similar speed to 2004's Hurricane Charley, it is much wider. The Weather Channel's Stu Ostro illustrated this with a composite image showing that Charley's eye and eyewall could fit inside the eye of Ian.

      Palm Beach County closures on Thursday

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:40 PM EDT

      Palm Beach County remains under a tropical storm warning because tornado activity is "expected to continue overnight and well into Thursday", according to officials.

      Palm Beach County schools and county operations will be remain closed on Thursday. All Palm Tran services will be suspended and all constitutional offices will be closed on Thursday.

      In an email, county officials said all Solid Waste Authority facilities "will be open and waste collection will occur in unincorporated Palm Beach County on Thursday, Sept. 29," with "no make-up day for residents that missed collection service."

      Residents can call the Emergency Information Center 561-712-6400 with questions regarding the storm from 7 a.m. on Thursday.

      More than 1 million Florida electric customers don’t have power

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:19 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian has started knocking out the lights.

      More than 1 million Florida electricity customers didn’t have power as of late afternoon Wednesday, according to the website poweroutage.us. The majority are in Lee, Collier and Sarasota counties, around the landfall location in the Gulf Coast.

      In South Florida, 63,000 people were suffering from outages as of 5 p.m., with half of those located in Miami-Dade, according to the site.

      Ian made landfall in Lee County with sustained winds of 150 mph, and state officials had warned residents that the powerful storm would likely result in widespread power outages.

      Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state had around 42,000 crew members on standby to help restore power when the conditions were safe.

      Power outages in Florida hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall on Sept. 28
      Power outages in Florida hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall on Sept. 28

      Public schools across South Florida will remain closed on Thursday

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 5:06 PM EDT

      All classes and school activities have been canceled in the Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County school districts – due to concerns that students wouldn't be able to get to campus safely.

      South Florida is expected to continue experiencing tropical storm force winds on Wednesday and into Thursday.

      “We’re dealing with the potential impact of wind, in particular a lot of our students that are transported,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Jose Dotres said in announcing the closures. “And then rain. The potential flooding. We have a lot of students that also walk to school.”

      As of Wednesday afternoon, a storm shelter remains open at the Key West High School Cafeteria in Monroe County. According to local officials, some 118 people have been weathering the storm there. The general population shelter is scheduled to close at noon on Thursday.

      Some bars reopen on Key West's Duval Street

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:11 PM EDT

      After a rough night in Key West that saw flooding, wind damage and even a fire, some bars on popular Duval Street are reopening.

      "Locals gathering for a respite and tourists [are] around too," Gwen Filosa, WLRN's new Keys reporter, posted.

      Gwen also reported that 61 people were forced to leave their homes on the Navy base in Key West. They were evacuated overnight.

      Hurricane Ian flooding hits Naval Air Station Key West, Sept. 28
      Nicholas V. Huynh
      U.S. Navy
      Hurricane Ian flooding hits Naval Air Station Key West, Sept. 28

      Our news partner FL Keys News, reported on a fire we highlighted earlier today:

      As Key West awoke to assess damage from the wind and water of Hurricane Ian, 40 people found themselves forced from their homes by a fire that ripped through a residential and retail complex Wednesday morning.

      The fire at 3201 Flagler Ave. was reported shortly before 6 a.m., said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

      Crean said no one was injured and “everybody got out” of their apartments. But the fire was still burning after 10:30 a.m., leaving those who live there without a place to live.

      Read more here.

      Key West firefighters battle a blaze at an apartment complex at 3201 Flagler Avenue Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, that displaced 40 residents
      Miami Herald
      Key West firefighters battle a blaze at an apartment complex at 3201 Flagler Avenue Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, that displaced 40 residents

      Sheltering in place? State officials want you to fill out a survey

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 4:03 PM EDT

      If you or a loved one are sheltering in place in the path of Hurricane Ian, state officials are asking you to fill out an online survey.

      The effort is meant to help track the location and needs of Floridians who did not evacuate ahead of the catastrophic storm, which is pounding southwest Florida with life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and flooding rain.

      Florida Department of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said first responders will use the information provided in the survey to guide their work in impacted areas.

      “This is primarily for those who did not evacuate so that we know where you’re at,” Guthrie said. “This is not a substitute for 911. If you have an immediate need, you need first responder assistance, you need to dial 911.”

      While emergency response will be delayed in the hardest hit areas until it’s safe for personnel to travel, FDEM says the survey will “ensure that responders have the information they need to address the needs of impacted households as quickly as possible.”

      The survey and more information are available at www.floridadisaster.org/info/.

      Hurricane or no, Lois Bastien is going for a run

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:53 PM EDT
      Lois Bastien jogs in the Sunset Palm Community of St. Petersburg Florida before Hurricane Ian hits the area on September 28, 2022.
      Carlos Osorio
      For NPR
      Lois Bastien jogs in the Sunset Palm Community of St. Petersburg Florida before Hurricane Ian hits the area on September 28, 2022.

      Hurricane Ian didn't keep 86-year-old Lois Bastien, who lives outside St. Petersburg, Fla., from her daily run. She had a record to keep: Every single day for the last 42 years, Bastien has run at least one mile.

      "I decided I'd wait to daylight because things will blow, even wires will blow down," she says. "But then when it got to be daylight, it started raining pretty hard!" Bastien says, examining her soaked sneakers.

      As she sped 1.5 miles through the waterlogged streets of the Sunset Palm retirement community, Bastien's boyfriend, Richard Dawley, trailed behind in his car.

      "All I'm doing is I'm following her to make sure nothing happens to her. Power lines down or whatever it could be. I want to make dang sure she gets home safely," Dawley told NPR.

      Maybe a treadmill run tomorrow? "I'm not sure I'd like to do that, that feels like cheating," Bastien says and laughs. "Tomorrow might be the end of my streak."

      Flamingo déjà vu

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:37 PM EDT

      In a repeat of one of the most iconic images from 1992's Hurricane Andrew, staff at The Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida, have shared a photograph of their flamingos hunkering down in a bathroom as Hurricane Ian approaches.

      This image is strikingly similar to one shared when zookeepers at ZooMiami — then Miami Metrozoo — scrambled to create a hurricane shelter for their flamingos in a restroom after the storm demolished their habitat.

      On the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, award-winning photographer Ron Magill spoke to WLRN about that memorable photograph.

      Hurricane Ian makes landfall as a Category 4 storm

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian made landfall at 3:05 p.m. near Cayo Costa, an island just off Fort Myers on Florida's southwestern coast, with sustained winds estimated at 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

      The catastrophic storm has lashed southwest Florida all day long, bringing non-stop winds and a torrent of waters flooding in from the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the eye of Ian has officially come ashore, it will continue to smack the region for hours before it makes its way slowly inland at just 9 mph.

      Unrelenting and devastating floodwaters continue to pummel Naples, up through Fort Myers, the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, and into Charlotte County. Photos and videos on Twitter show waters at or above roofs in some areas. Cars have floated away, roofs have ripped off and some houses have lifted off their foundations. The hurricane’s outer bands continue to fling tornadoes which are on the ground for brief periods of time.

      An extreme wind warning remains in effect for most of southwest Florida. As of now, more than 800,000 homes and businesses in Florida are without power.

      Miami-Dade Mayor: 'We're still not fully in the clear'

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:16 PM EDT

      Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava gives an update.

      Terrifying and heartbreaking scenes coming in from southwest Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 3:03 PM EDT

      Social media posts from southwest Florida show heartbreaking damage and terrifying conditions.

      As Hurricane Ian's eyewall makes landfall in the area, a massive storm surge appears to submerge almost the entire first floor of homes in Naples and Fort Myers.

      "Please pray for her," says one resident in a thread about her mother, who decided to stay in place.

      "In addition to this destroying my family home and scaring the hell out of me for my mom’s safety, my entire family’s photos are in that house. 100 years worth. Photos and videos of my dad, my papa and my aunt who are all gone. It’s just me and her. And it’s all gone," the Twitter user added.

      DeSantis: Stay inside, heed tornado warnings

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:46 PM EDT

      At a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Tallahassee, Gov. Ron DeSantis said most people in evacuation zones have left, but some chose to stay.

      "At the end of the day, that's a decision they made, knowing that they had the ability to evacuate and knowing what the stakes were. Nevertheless, life safety operations will commence as soon as it's safe to be able to identify people who who may be in harm's way and who are need of assistance," said DeSantis.

      He urged those in the direct path of Ian to stay inside until the storm passes. The storm may be calm at a certain point, but that may just be the eye of the storm. Ian is forecast to move across Central Florida and exit Daytona Beach some time on Thursday.

      "We've already seen around the state tornado warnings issued far from where the hurricane is entering in southwest Florida," said DeSantis. "Those warnings will likely continue until this finally leaves our state. So even if you're not in the direct path of the storm, you need to take all tornado warnings seriously and you need to take appropriate precautions if that is happening in your area."

      The Florida Department of Transportation has 1,200 personnel on standby to perform cut and toss operations, in order to safely clear roadways once Hurricane Ian passes. Supplies will be brought in by plane, boat and by high water vehicles. Airports in southwest Florida have teams that will work to clear runways. There are currently over 5,000 Florida National Guard members mobilized, in addition to 2,000 guardsmen from other states.

      DeSantis urged Floridians who evacuated to not rush back home once the storm leaves the state. “We have a massive, massive mobilization. Their job is to get in there and help to restore services,” said DeSantis. “You're also going to have folks bringing in things like food and water. So there's no need to rush back in. There's going to be a lot going on in the immediate aftermath and a lot of people's safety depends on that.”

      He said the state will be submitting a major disaster declaration for all 67 counties in Florida.

      Hurricane Ian sucked water away from Florida's coast as it moved north

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:40 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian delivered an eerie omen to coastal Florida residents Wednesday morning as the powerful storm's winds pulled massive amounts of water away from beaches and shorelines, exposing the seabed that's normally covered by feet of ocean water.

      Spectators and photographers gaped at the suddenly remade coastlines — but the water is expected to return with a vengeance: The latest storm surge estimates predict up to 12-18 feet of water above ground level hitting an area from Englewood south to Bonita Beach, the National Hurricane Center said.

      "IMPORTANT NOTE: The water WILL come back," the National Weather Service office in Tampa said via Twitter, as it urged people not to walk out to explore areas where water has receded.

      When it does arrive, the high water "will likely be accompanied by large and destructive waves," the NHC said.

      Read more on why hurricanes pull water from shorelines.

      Broward County: Tornado hits airport

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:30 PM EDT

      At least two tornadoes hit parts of Broward County last night, according to county mayor Michale Udine. One of them hit North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines.

      “This morning I was able to personally go by and view some damaged areas in Broward County. North Perry airport sustained some minor building and structural damage and approximately 30 aircrafts were damaged from a tornado around 7:30pm last night.”

      The other tornado hit areas of Hollywood, Davie and Pembroke Pines. The strong winds left some homes with exterior damage. Mayor Udine said there were no injuries reported last night.

      23 migrants missing as boat sinks off Keys under tropical storm conditions

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 2:13 PM EDT

      Despite tropical storm conditions around the Keys, some immigrants are still attempting crossings to Florida - with tragic consequences.

      Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar, who leads the U.S. Border Patrol’s Miami sector, said that agents responded to a migrant landing in Stock Island, in the Lower Keys.

      Four Cuban migrants swam to shore, but the Coast Guard was this afternoon searching for 23 individuals believed to be missing.

      Dramatic 'first-person' footage of storm surge in Fort Myers Beach

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:56 PM EDT

      Footage from Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach shows the storm surge and hurricane winds as Ian makes landfall in the immediate area.

      Devastating storm surge in Naples

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:50 PM EDT

      This image from the City of Naples' Facebook page shows the devastating storm surge from Ian on Wednesday morning.

      FPL urges patience, more than 300,000 people are already out of power in Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:46 PM EDT

      The state’s largest utility company is urging residents to brace for power outages – even in areas outside the direct path of Hurricane Ian. Florida Power and Light is also warning customers that restoring power will take time, as crews wait for the ferocious storm to pass before clearing roadways, replacing downed power lines, and reconstructing the grid in the hardest-hit areas of the state.

      As of 1:30 pm on Wednesday, more than 300,000 customers were already out of power across Florida, according to PowerOutage.us. Gov. Ron DeSantis says that’s a fraction of the outages that are expected in the coming hours, as Hurricane Ian batters the state with catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and flooding rains “[That] is a drop in the bucket for what's going to happen over the next 24 to 48 hours,” DeSantis said.

      FPL says it has prepositioned some 19,000 workers across the state in advance of the storm and says it has the capability to restore power in some areas remotely. But the company is warning that field crews can’t go out when wind speeds are above 35 miles per hour.

      “We thank our customers in advance for their patience with what we know will be a challenging next couple of days,” said Armando Fernandez, an external affairs director for FPL in Miami-Dade County. “Please know that we will be out in force as soon as it is safe to work.”

      South Florida is forecast to experience tropical storm force winds upwards of 50 miles per hour throughout the day Wednesday and into Thursday afternoon.

      'Absolutely wild': Hurricane hunter pilots are shocked by what they've seen from Ian

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:39 PM EDT

      Hurricane hunter pilots are accustomed to experiencing chaotic flying conditions — which makes the stunned reports of those who have flow into the center of Hurricane Ian so noteworthy.

      Nick Underwood, who flew into Ian on NOAA’s Kermit aircraft, said the trip was “the worst I’ve ever been on.”

      “I’ve never seen so much lightning in an eye,” he wrote on Twitter. He posted an image as light as day — but the light comes from lightning, because the picture was taken at night. He and his colleagues were dropping drones to take measurements of the storm.

      “Absolutely wild,” Underwood added. “I’m glad we only did one pass.”

      Another flight, a weather reconnaissance mission with the Air Force Reserve, also reported extremely chaotic flight conditions. Dave Malkoff from The Weather Channel was on the plane.

      “We hit hail, massive turbulence in the eye wall that dropped us 1000+ feet,” Malkoff tweeted. “It was NOT even calm inside the eye.”

      Malkoff shared images of what appeared to be hail damage on the plane's nose, and added that the Air Force Reserve pilot described this flight as the “worst ever.”

      View of squally Downtown Miami

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:36 PM EDT

      WLRN's Jenny Staletovich shares a view of Miami as Ian's bands continue to impact South Florida.

      A new satellite image clarifies where Hurricane Ian is headed

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:26 PM EDT

      A new satellite image from the University of Wisconsin-Madison posted this morning offers more clarification as to where exactly Hurricane Ian may hit when it makes landfall on coastal Florida near Fort Myers.

      The image comes from the university's NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. The institute shared the image on Twitter, offering a better look at Ian's size as it approaches the Florida coastline.

      The outer eyewall of Ian has reached Florida's Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The storm has sustained winds of 155 mph — a Category 4 hurricane.

      By Jaclyn Diaz/NPR

      Footage: Ian's eyewall arrives in southwest Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:25 PM EDT

      Footage from Rotonda, just north of Fort Myers, as Hurricane Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida/

      Disney World, Universal Orlando, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex close ahead of Hurricane Ian

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 1:06 PM EDT

      As Hurricane Ian churns closer, Florida's theme parks are hurriedly preparing for its arrival.

      Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, just miles from where the hurricane was previously expected to make landfall, was the first park to shutter ahead of the storm on Tuesday. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida followed suit Wednesday.

      "Everything revolves around the safety of our guests and team members," Universal Orlando Resort said in a statement to USA TODAY.

      Read more with our news partner, the Palm Beach Post.

      Live cam footage of Hurricane Ian impacting Englewood Beach in southwest Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:58 PM EDT

      As Hurricane Ian makes landfall on the southwest coast of Florida, live cam footage from EarthCam shows storm force winds impacting Englewood Beach.

      Damage across South Florida, tornado captured on video

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:53 PM EDT

      The first fringes of winds, rain and tornadoes that come with Hurricane Ian reached Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties on Tuesday night, and gave a nasty taste of what might be coming Wednesday.

      ▪ Social media photos and videos showed a tornado moving through West Miami-Dade, picking up and dumping trees in areas around and just north of Flagler Street and west of 82nd Avenue.

      COOPER CITY ▪ Cooper City in Southwest Broward reported at least two tornadoes had touched down, ripping up foliage before leaving.

      Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

      The eyewall of Hurricane Ian reaches southwest Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:43 PM EDT

      The outer eyewall of Hurricane Ian has reached Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Lee County, Fla.

      In an update, the National Hurricane Center says sustained winds on Sanibel have reached 71 mph (just shy of hurricane strength) and higher gusts. Webcams on the ritzy island show water flooding over some roads. Conditions will continue to rapidly deteriorate as the storm roars ashore.

      The hurricane has slowed to nine mph. A slower storm means people will feel the effects of the storm longer.

      Hurricane Ian still has sustained winds of 155 mph – which is a category four "major hurricane."

      Keys under tropical storm warning after overnight flooding, power outages and fire

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT

      The Florida Keys, which remain under a tropical storm warning, began to feel the effects of of Hurricane Ian’s outer bands last night — with severe flooding, power outages, downed trees and even a fire.

      Hurricane-force wind gusts were recorded in Key West, according to the National Weather Service. Wind speed at the Smith Shoal Lighthouse offshore reached 97 mph.

      Storm surge is expected to continue today, with the Lower Keys seeing a rapid rise between noon and 4 p.m., said meteorologist Jon Rizzo. In addition, the Key West NWS office sent out a storm surge warning for the lower Keys as there was a risk of life-threatening flooding, with 3-5 feet expected. A storm surge watch remains in effect for the Upper and Middle Keys.

      The Upper Keys will see a more gradual rise, with surge measuring one to three feet. Monroe County leaders have damage assessment teams on standby, waiting for the weather to clear before heading out.

      Runways at the Key West International Airport will be open, but the airport will remain closed to customers. Airport workers have up to 16 to 20 hours of work ahead of them, in hopes of opening up Thursday morning. The Florida Keys Marathon International Airport is also fully operational.

      Hurricane Ian: What's open and closed in South Florida on Wednesday and Thursday

      Overnight, the wastewater plant saw a surge in inflows of about 2 million gallons, likely from saltwater intrusion coming from Islamorada. Meanwhile, hospitals in the Keys, which saw little to no damage, have felt a strain on their staff after many were impacted by flooding.

      WLRN’s new Keys reporter, Gwen Filosa, has been providing updates on the storm via Twitter. Videos she has filmed and received from others show parts of the Keys are already flooding, the winds have brought down trees, a fire has broken out and people have lost their power.

      Keys Energy reported that 9,958 customers lost power overnight. Due to unsafe working conditions, crews stood down from responding to outages. Weather permitting, the plan is for them to perform a systemwide assessment today.

      DeSantis: Millions to face power outages

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:25 PM EDT

      Gov. Ron DeSantis said millions of Floridians will face power outages over the next two days as monstrous Hurricane Ian barrels through the state.

      “You are starting to see power outages across the state, but you're going to see way, way more over the next 48 hours,” DeSantis said Wednesday while at a Florida Power & Light staging area at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Lake City. “You're going to have millions of people without power in this state within the next 48 hours. No question.”

      In information posted online, Florida Power & Light reported about 50,000 outages Wednesday morning, including about 18,000 in Miami-Dade County, 13,000 in Sarasota County, 8,000 in Collier County, 3,500 in Charlotte County and 2,000 in Lee County. Duke Energy Florida posted about 3,000 outages.

      FPL President & CEO Eric Silagy cautioned Tuesday that efforts to restore power will be affected by Hurricane Ian’s expected slow crawl across Florida. Silagy added that it could take about 24 hours after Ian departs from areas to determine how much time will be needed to complete restoration. More than 40,000 workers, including workers from other states, are handling outages or are on post-storm standby.

      Parking fees suspended in selected garages in Fort Lauderdale

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:11 PM EDT

      The city of Fort Lauderdale has suspended parking fees at two public garages to help provide vehicles temporary protection during Hurricane Ian.

      Both Riverwalk Center Garage, 150 SE 2 St (entrance on SE 2nd Ave.), and the Las Olas Garage, 200 E. Las Olas Circle (located on north side of the Las Olas Boulevard Bridge), will be free until 5 p.m. Friday.

      All other city parking spaces will requirement payment, according to the city's website.

      South Florida officials urge residents to stay home, tropical storm force winds expected throughout today

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 12:07 PM EDT

      South Florida officials are urging residents to stay home if they’re able, as Hurricane Ian batters the state, bringing heavy rain, flash flooding and some storm surge to the state’s southeastern coast.

      Parts of South Florida could see winds upwards of 50 miles per hour on Wednesday and into Thursday afternoon. Forecasters warn the region could also see multiple tornadoes. Possible tornadoes have already been reported in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. In the Kings Point neighborhood west of Delray Beach, more than two dozen people were evacuated due to a tornado that toppled cars and blew some roofs off of buildings.

      Though South Florida will dodge the worst of what is expected to be catastrophic damage from Hurricane Ian, the region is still experiencing potentially dangerous impacts.

      Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is urging residents to stay vigilant. “This is a major storm and its impacts are expected to extend well beyond the cone,” Levine Cava said. “Miami-Dade is now under a tropical storm warning and we expect to experience tropical storm force winds throughout the day and through…into tomorrow.”

      Miami-Dade County officials are asking residents to report flooded roads by calling 311, and to reserve calls to 911 only for medical emergencies and life-threatening situations. To report a downed powerline, dial 1-800-4-OUTAGE.

      Department of Health closures in Miami-Dade and Broward

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 11:57 AM EDT

      The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County will be closed on Wednesday, Sept. 28 and Thursday, Sept. 29.

      DOH-Miami-Dade will respond to urgent public health issues and may be reached at 305-324-2400. In Broward County, the Florida Department of Health will be closed on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

      For clients with appointments at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade on those dates this week, a department employee will reach out to reschedule them. Visit http://miamidade.floridahealth.gov/ for more information.

      NHC: Eyewall of Hurricane Ian is beginning to move onshore with 155mph sustained winds

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 11:22 AM EDT

      Here is how Hurricane Ian looks as it nears landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

      The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center: "Eyewall of #Ian moving onshore! Catastrophic storm surge along with destructive waves are expected along the southwest Florida coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor. Residents should urgently follow evacuation orders in effect."

      The storm is bringing 155 mph sustained winds, just short of a Category 5, and is expected to make landfall in the coming hours.

      An animated satellite composite image of Hurricane Ian as of 11 a.m. on Sept. 28
      An animated satellite composite image of Hurricane Ian as of 11 a.m. on Sept. 28

      FPREN: "Traveling is highly discouraged anywhere across the Peninsula"

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 10:48 AM EDT

      This from Florida Public Radio Emergency Network:

      "Unless absolutely necessary, traveling is highly discouraged anywhere across the Peninsula. Isolated tornadoes will drop unpredictably the next 48 hours and many roads will soon be covered with water. Please take care."

      Miami International Airport remains open but more than 200 departures canceled

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 10:41 AM EDT

      Here is an update from Greg Chin, Communications Director for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.

      "MIA is outside of the cone of concern for Hurricane Ian and will remain open. 206 arrivals and 214 departures have been canceled at MIA today due to the hurricane, affecting flights between MIA and cities across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

      "Travelers are urged to confirm the status of their flight before coming to MIA, to avoid congestion at the airport, and since rebooking is more easily done online from their home or hotel room."

      Possible tornado blows roof off, overturns cars and sends two to hospital at PBC retirement community

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 10:32 AM EDT

      A confirmed tornado sent two people to hospital and caused severe damage Tuesday night in Kings Point neighborhood in an unincorporated area west of Delray Beach, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

      PBCFR said two people were transported to hospital, including the person trapped in a bathroom after a roof collapsed. Kings Point is a retirement community for people 55 years or older.

      Officials said 30 people, most from the Normandy and Piedmont buildings, were evacuated because of the damage from the tornado. Firefighters found cars toppled, roofs were blown off from a few top floor apartments, snapped trees slammed into buildings, and downed tree limbs were removed from roads.

      In the official Facebook post, county firefighters said “high water vehicles were used to move large numbers of people quickly” and that Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials helped PBCFR go “door to door” to evacuate people safely.

      Several parts of Palm Beach County were under a tornado warning last night. According to Palm Beach County officials, Cat 3 Hurricane Ian could dump 4 to 6 inches of rain, possibly 10 inches in some areas. EOC officials upgraded the activation level to 2 at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

      The county had issued a declaration of emergency "out of an abundance of caution." The Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said it will survey the rest of the county for additional tornado damage.

      This post has been updated to reflect the confirmation of the tornado in Kings Point.

      Cuba: Two deaths, 'apocalyptic' damage and political controversy

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 10:23 AM EDT

      Hurricane Ian roared into western Cuba as a major, Category 3 storm early Tuesday morning, one of the strongest hurricanes to hit that part of Cuba in decades. The Cuban government is reporting two deaths from the storm, which left heavy damage and flooding in its wake.

      The hurricane hit western Cuba but took down the island's entire power grid — and raised criticisms of the communist regime's preparedness effort. "Apocalyptic" damage to the most important tobacco-growing region could be devastating for the island's economy.

      WLRN's Christine DiMattei spoke with Americas editor Tim Padgett in detail about Ian’s aftermath in Cuba and how it could affect the communist island. You can read that story here.

      Fallen power lines, trees and metal rooftops block the streets in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, after Hurricane Ian struck the island's western provinces on Tuesday.
      Ramon Espinosa
      Fallen power lines, trees and metal rooftops block the streets in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, after Hurricane Ian struck the island's western provinces on Tuesday.

      Gov Ron DeSantis: Hunker down and treat the storm like a tornado

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 9:04 AM EDT

      Florida agencies are on standby as the state braces for Hurricane Ian to make landfall this afternoon. At an Emergency Operations Center Briefing this morning, Governor Ron DeSantis said people should be prepared to hunker down and treat the storm like a tornado.

      "There’s gonna be a lot of fallout from this in terms of getting people getting back on their feet, but that’s why we’ve done the mobilization that we’ve done. Right now it’s about safety," he said. "I think most Floridians made the proper precautions to keep themselves safe. The ones that didn’t that may end up in harm’s way - there are a lot of assets staged and they’re going to be deployed."

      DeSantis said more than 5,000 state guardsman will be deployed to help provide relief after the storm. And more than 30-thousand lineman are ready to help restore power.

      State leaders remind Floridians to keep generators outside of your home, avoid driving or walking through flooded streets and stay safe indoors.

      With Hurricane Ian fast approaching the southwest Florida coast, Florida emergency management director Kevin Guthrie says emergency managers are preparing for the worst. “The storm is here. It is imminent," he said. "Emergency management directors …they’re preparing and they’re expecting a Cat 5.“

      Governor Ron DeSantis says more than 30-thousand utility workers – many from out of state - are staged and ready for power restoration. He will meet with some of them this morning in Lake City.

      Hurricane Ian churns and gains strength off Florida's west coast

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 8:56 AM EDT

      Ian knocks out Cuba's power grid, intensifies as it nears Florida

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 8:37 AM EDT

      Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified off Florida's southwest coast Wednesday morning, gaining top winds of 155 mph, just shy of the most dangerous Category 5 status. Damaging winds and rain lashed the state's heavily populated Gulf Coast, with the Naples to Sarasota region at "highest risk" of a devastating storm surge.

      U.S. Air Force hurricane hunters confirmed Ian gained strength over warm Gulf of Mexico water after battering Cuba, bringing down the country's electricity grid and leaving the entire island without power.

      The hurricane could push as much as 12 feet of ocean water ashore in Florida, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said, urging people to evacuate the danger zone if they still can. More than 2.5 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders, but by law no one could be forced to flee.

      Read more here.

      Hurricane Ian strengthens to 155 mph - close to a Category 5

      Posted September 28, 2022 at 8:09 AM EDT

      An update from Florida Public Radio Emergency Network's Megan Borowski. "Storm flooding could be catastrophic," she says.

      Flash flood warnings for the Miami area on Tuesday night

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 8:14 PM EDT

      Keys Energy crews suspending work until Wednesday morning

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 8:12 PM EDT

      Keys Energy Services said its crews are standing down because of unsafe conditions and will resume work on Wednesday morning, weather permitting.

      If residents experience outages overnight, please call (305) 295-1010 to report them so crews can prioritize repairs when work resumes.

      Tornado confirmed in Broward, Ian shifts track to southeast

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 7:42 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian’s forecast track shifted again to the southeast late Tuesday afternoon, increasing the danger to Florida’s southern Gulf coast as South Florida prepared for a night of squally, rainy weather.

      The storm’s top wind speed held at 120 mph but was expected to rise to 130 mph, the threshold for Category 4 strength, by the time the hurricane approaches landfall Wednesday afternoon somewhere on the Gulf coast. Earlier forecasts predicted the storm would weaken before hitting the coast, but the newer track predicts it will make landfall at the peak of its power.

      Shortly before 7:30 p.m., the National Weather Service Miami said in a Tweet that a radar confirmed a tornado was moving toward Davie between Weston and the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, near the intersections of Interstate 75, Interstate 595 and Sawgrass Expressway.

      The tornado was likely to affect western parts of Broward County, including Margate, Tamarac, Sunrise, Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation, Fern Crest Village, Davie and Pembroke Pines, the weather service said.

      Read more from our news partner, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

      Highway shoulders opening to ease evacuation congestion

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT

      To ease evacuations for more than 2.5 million people told to leave storm zones ahead of Hurricane Ian, Florida has begun opening highway shoulders, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday evening.

      Shoulders along eastbound Interstate 4 were opened, with others to follow if speeds slow to 40 mph or less.

      "If that traffic does go to the point where it's under 40 mph, sustained, then they will they will execute that. Why wouldn't you just execute it regardless? Well, because it's hazardous to have people going 75 miles an hour on a shoulder," DeSantis said.

      By opening shoulders, the state is hoping to avoid the paralyzing congestion that impeded evacuations when Hurricane Irma hit in 2017 and more than 6 million people were ordered to leave. Evacuees complained of having to sit in traffic for hours, sometimes for half a day.

      Evacuations are expected to increase as Ian approaches and conditions worsen. On Tuesday evening, the National Hurricane Center extended a hurricane watch south to Chokoloskee in Southwest Florida. A tropical storm warning was also expanded to cover the entire southeast coast.

      Emergency officials said time is running out to find safety.

      "The time to evacuate is now. Get on the road," said emergency management director Kevin Guthrie. "There will come a point in time when local public safety officials will not be able to respond to your help, your cry for help."

      SNAP benefits will arrive earlier than scheduled

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT

      Miami-Dade officials preparing for flooding

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT

      Miami-Dade County officials say they are preparing for a deluge of rainfall from Hurricane Ian, even though the county is not directly in the cone of the storm. During a heavy rainstorm in June, the stormwater system was so inundated that it caused thousands of gallons of sewage to spill into the streets, temporarily closing some beaches.

      "We’ve been working on this since last week, going out to all the places that were identified in the last event as being particularly prone to flooding," said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "Making sure that we’ve cleaned out the drains so that the water can flow off the streets, that the canal levels were lowered."

      Some flooding is already happening in coastal areas, since the storm coincides with a king tide event. That’s when the coastal tide reaches its highest point of the year.

      "We want – very importantly -- for people to use less water during main rain events. Because we still do have a system that can be overwhelmed by excess water flow and so we’re asking people to be mindful of their water use," said the mayor.

      Residents are encouraged to call 311 or to use the hashtag #MiamiDadeWeather on social media to notify the county of major flooding.

      All of South Florida is now under a tropical storm warning

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 5:17 PM EDT

      The National Hurricane Center extended a tropical storm warning to all of Southeast Florida as Ian churns toward Florida's Gulf Coast. Forecasters also expanded hurricane warnings south to Chokoloskee, on the Gulf's southwest tip.

      The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network advises that Ian remains a Category 3 hurricane, targeting the west-central and southwest Florida coast. The most likely area for landfall ranges from Tampa-St. Pete to Fort Myers, tomorrow afternoon or evening. Tropical Storm conditions expected for most of Peninsula starting tomorrow.

      Sustained winds remained at 120 mph, with the storm moving at 10 mph.

      At that pace, forecasters expect tropical storm force winds to reach the Gulf coast and the Keys this evening, and further north, between Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, early Wednesday. Radar showed the strong storm beginning to undergo an eyewall replacement, which could briefly weaken the storm but also cause it to grow in diameter.

      Models show the storm could begin to pick up speed, forecasters said, but there is still uncertainty over whether that speed will be maintained, which could cause shifts in the track.

      The highest risk for storm surge remains between Sarasota and Naples, forecasters said.

      Hurricane warnings now cover the entire southern half of the Gulf Coast, from Chokoloskee to Tampa, with tropical storm warnings stretching around the rest of the state, from Jacksonville to Gulf County in the Panhandle.

      DoorDash suspends operations in parts of Florida

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 5:11 PM EDT

      DoorDash will suspend operations at 9 p.m. Tuesday in the following areas, according to a news release:

      • Tampa
      • Miami
      • Orlando
      • Fort Myers
      • Naples
      • Cape Coral
      • Key West
      • St. Petersburg
      • Fort Lauderdale
      • Melbourne
      • Daytona Beach
      • West Palm Beach
      • Port St. Lucie

      FPL warns residents that power outages are likely

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:59 PM EDT

      Florida Power and Light are warning customers that Hurricane Ian will likely bring power outages. The storm is projected to hit the west coast of Florida Wednesday morning, but there may be tornadoes and tropical storm force winds in Southeast Florida as well.

      Eric Silagy is the CEO of FPL. He said today that while the company is working around the clock, residents should still expect some outages.

      “I want to be clear, there is no such thing as a hurricane proof electrical grid, there will be damage to the grid. If a large oak tree falls over, it will take out a concrete pole just as much as it will take out a wood pole, it may actually rip up underground lines as well. When you see these big root balls go over the size of a house itself, you will see damage and we will then have to repair or in some cases rebuild it,” he said.

      Silagy said the utility company has deployed about 16,000 employees around the state to start working after the storm passes.

      They are stationed at 24 different locations across the state in case the storm changes direction.

      Palm Beach County: No trash collection Wednesday, school announcements forthcoming

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:57 PM EDT

      According to Palm Beach County officials, Hurricane Ian could dump 4 to 6 inches of rain, possibly 10 inches in some areas. Mayor Robert Weinroth said it's going to "be a rain and wind event."

      EOC officials upgraded the activation level to 2 as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

      Michael Burke, @pbcsd superintendent, on school closure tomorrow: "A decision regarding closure beyond Wednesday is forthcoming ... will be shared in expedite manner."

      DOH Palm Beach County Health director Dr. Alina Alonso reminded county residents to watch out for their pets and avoid standing water. If electricity goes out, due to high wind, make sure smoke from generators do not enter your home.

      Willie Puz with Solid Waste Authority said there will be no garbage collection in Palm Beach County on Wednesday. Facilities will be closed and items on street curbs won't be picked up. As for Thursday's collection, Puz said: "we'll be making that decision based off of the weather and how things change over the course of the day."

      Two tornado-warned storms in Monroe County - seek shelter

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:39 PM EDT

      Keys update: Downed trees, street flooding and shelter open as tropical force winds approach

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:36 PM EDT

      Heavy rain linked to Hurricane Ian is already taking a toll on the Florida Keys, with reports of downed trees and minor street flooding in Key West.

      At 4 p.m. Tuesday, the center of the storm was located about 65 miles south, southwest of the Dry Tortugas. The storm was moving north at 10 mph with sustained winds of 120 mph. As Ian continues north, sustained tropical force winds up to 73 mph should be felt soon in the Lower Keys, the National Weather Service in Key West said.

      Tropical storm force gusts should reach the Middle Keys this evening. Gusts reaching 45 mph have already been recorded in Key West, officials said. Severe squalls are also expected. To avoid damaging homes from salty floodwater, officials have warned drivers to treat flooded streets as ‘no wake zones.’

      By now, emergency officials say residents and visitors should be sheltering in safe locations and should stay off roads. The shelter at key West High School has opened for anyone needing shelter.

      Ahead of Ian, the county has closed schools and city and county offices. The Snake Creek bridge has been locked down to boat traffic and will not reopen until winds drop below 39 mph.

      All commercial flights at the Key West International Airport have been cancelled through Tuesday. The port of Key West is also closed. Emergency officials say boaters should stay off the water.

      Where to find sandbags for hurricane prep in South Florida

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:34 PM EDT

      Some South Florida communities are handing out sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Ian. Sandbags help against the threat of flooding, acting as a barrier to block out unwanted water.

      Broward locations include:

      • Oakland Park: Began handing out sandbags to its residents Thursday while supplies last along the 5100 block of Northeast 12th Terrace.
      • Pembroke Pines: Howard C. Forman Health Park, located at 1001 Poinciana Drive, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proof of residency is required and residents are limited to six sandbags per vehicle.
      • Fort Lauderdale: Handing out sandbags to its residents at Mills Pond Park at 2201 NW 9th Ave. until 7 p.m. Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday. Residents are limited to 10 bags per vehicle, while supplies last.
      • Miramar: Friday at the Adult Day Care Center, located at 8915 Miramar Pkwy. Proof of residency is required and sandbags are limited to six per household. Distribution will continue Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents will need to show proof of Miramar residency. The limit is 6 sandbags per household and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

      Miami locations are:

      • Hialeah: Distributing sand from noon to 8 p.m. at Babcock Park, 651 E 4th Ave. and Bucky Dent Park, 2250 W 60th St. Residents are advised to bring their own bags to fill with sand.
      • Miami Lakes: Distributing sandbags from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Royal Oaks Park, located at 16500 NW 87 Avenue. Bring proof of Miami Lakes residency. 10 sandbags per vehicle.
      • The City of Opa-Locka: Department of Public Works, located at 12950 NW 42nd Ave., will be open all day Saturday to distribute sandbags to residents who may need them.
      • Homestead: Homestead Sports Complex located at 1601 SE 28th Ave. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents must show an ID or bill proving they are a City of Homestead resident. There is a 10 bag per vehicle limit.

      Proof of residency may be required at certain locations.
      More info at Local 10 News.

      Cuba: No reported deaths but heavy damage and more than a million without power

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:20 PM EDT

      Hurricane Ian roared into Cuba’s western Pinar del Rio province at about 3 a.m. and lingered there until heading into the Gulf of Mexico in the morning. Ian lashed the island with winds of up to 125 miles per hour and dumped almost 20 inches of rain.

      Videos posted on social media showed some Pinar del Rio residents in water up to their chests, as well as large trees fallen across roads. As of Tuesday afternoon there were no deaths reported. But more than a million Cubans are without power.

      Ian was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit western Cuba in almost two decades. Pinar del Rio is Cuba’s most important tobacco-growing region. Reports indicate many tobacco fields were ravaged.

      Cuba’s communist government evacuated some 50,000 residents of the area before the storm. But many Cubans complain the regime compromised hurricane preparedness by insisting on holding a national election on a new family law on Sunday.

      Miami Beach declares state of emergency

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:07 PM EDT

      With tropical storm force winds expected in places across Southeast Florida, the city of Miami Beach has declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Ian.

      The city plans to move temporary pumps into places that flood frequently on the barrier island and is canceling some services, including trash pick-up.

      To protect cars, motorcycles or scooters, Miami Beach residents may park them for free at municipal garages starting Tuesday at 5 p.m. through Thursday at 8 p.m. These garages do not include the ones at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 5th Street and Alton Road or at City Hall. Bring proof of residency.

      All outdoor parks department activities have been cancelled. Indoor activities will continue as scheduled, including the after-school program.

      The city is also asking residents to report flooding by email to flooding@miamibeachfl.gov or on the city's app at City of Miami Beach e-gov.

      Another tornado warning for Miami-Dade and Broward

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 4:03 PM EDT

      Education update: Colleges and universities cancel classes across South Florida

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 3:15 PM EDT

      Colleges and universities across South Florida are canceling classes as Hurricane Ian bears down on the state.

      Officials have announced there will be no classes on Wednesday at the College of the Florida Keys, Miami Dade College, Broward College, Palm Beach State College and Florida International University.

      At the University of Miami, all classes at the Coral Gables and Marine campus will move to an online format for Wednesday.

      Higher ed officials are still deciding whether to cancel classes on Thursday as well, as some of South Florida’s K-12 school districts have done.

      Meanwhile, Florida State University and the University of Florida have canceled classes for the rest of the week.

      College of the Florida Keys

      - Only Lagoon Landing residents and authorized college personnel, with proper ID, will be allowed on the Key West Campus during the campus closure

      Florida International University

      - On-campus housing and some dining services will remain open
      - Students who live on campus can stay in their dorm throughout the storm
      - The Student Health Clinic and FIU Health will be closed through Wednesday
      - Students in need of immediate assistance can call FIU’s 24-hour hotline at 305-348-2277 to speak with a licensed clinician
      - Help is always available from the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 from any phone

      University of Miami

      - Campus dining halls will remain open
      - The following locations on the Coral Gables Campus will be closed as of 5 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed through Wednesday: University Libraries; Campus Store; Herbert Wellness Center; Hurricane Food Court; Shalala Student Center and Student Center Complex
      - Athletics will continue normal schedules
      - UHealth clinical facilities, with the exception of BPEI Naples, continue on normal schedules

      Palm Beach County update: drawbridges close, flood watch in effect

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 3:10 PM EDT

      Palm Beach County officials are mobilizing in many ways. From drawbridge closures to school closures.

      A tropical storm warning is issued for the county. That means sustained tropical storm-force winds could be felt in a broad area within 36 hours.

      A flood watch is in effect across South Florida as heavy rains could produce flash flooding in low-lying areas, such as parts of Lake Worth Beach.

      A tropical storm watch was issued yesterday for Lake Okeechobee for communities that border Palm Beach and Okeechobee counties.

      The Florida Department of Transportation is locking down drawbridges in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties for the duration of Hurricane Ian. Bridges will remain open to car traffic. Mariners can get more information here.

      Scenes from Ian in Key West

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 2:17 PM EDT

      See more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

      Situation overview for South Florida from the National Weather Service in Miami

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 2:11 PM EDT

      Tornado warning in Broward, Collier and Miami-Dade counties

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 1:39 PM EDT

      NHC moves to hourly updates, Ian widens as it emerges from Cuba

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 1:24 PM EDT

      With Hurricane Ian speeding up as it emerges from Cuba and expected to make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast six to 12 hours sooner, the National Hurricane Center has begun issuing hourly updates on the storm’s position.

      The center will continue issuing the updates as long as the eye is easily visible on radar. At 1 p.m., the storm was about 100 miles south, southwest of the Dry Tortugas, moving at 10 mph and with maximum sustained winds of 115mph

      Jamie Rhome, the center’s acting director, warned that time to prepare is running out. “Now that you can see it on radar, you can see that we're really starting to lose time for people in the path of this system to take action,” he said. “So when you can see it on radar, you know it's starting to get close.”

      Since emerging from Cuba, the storms has started to widen, meaning it could push a bigger storm surge ashore. Rhome warned that the storm is also packing heavy rain, which is not factored into storm surge forecasts and could worsen flooding.

      That rain, he said, will sweep out ahead of the storm and could hamper preparations, especially in low lying areas where roads can flood. “The heavy rain co-located it with the storm surge could present a significant, significant flood risk,” he said.

      With Ian to cross Florida and emerge on the Atlantic coast, flooding and surge could also hit the northeast parts of the state. Jacksonville has now been added to list of places under a storm surge watch.

      Flooding by the Riviera Canal in Key West

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 1:23 PM EDT

      South Florida schools to close along with Monroe County offices, as the Keys feel the early impacts of Ian

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 1:08 PM EDT

      Schools across South Florida will be closed Wednesday before Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall in Florida.

      Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties school districts canceled classes, aftercare and extracurricular activities. Higher education institutions like Miami-Dade County College also followed suit.

      Monroe County law enforcement officials, state park rangers, emergency personnel and municipal leaders during a meeting Tuesday agreed to shut down schools, state parks and county offices as the Florida Keys feel the effects of Hurricane Ian.

      A Tornado Watch has been issued for the whole island chain through 5 p.m. Tuesday as rain squalls form.

      Jon Rizzo with the National Weather Service of Key West said that wind gusts coupled with storm surge are expected to create hazardous driving conditions that block access on several roads.

      “You’re going to have impassable streets on the Gulf side that are actually going to peak in the afternoon. So even if you start seeing sunshine and there’s a few hours between the rain bands, my concern is that access for certain schools,” Rizzo said. “They may have trouble getting in and out of their neighborhoods.”

      A flood watch has been issued throughout the Keys through Wednesday morning, as forecasters expect to see one to three feet of flooding above high tides. Instead, the county will begin operating a storm shelter out of Key West high school.

      Florida braces for major evacuation with 2.5 million people ordered to leave the Gulf Coast

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 12:57 PM EDT

      As Hurricane Ian churns toward the Florida Gulf Coast, the state is bracing for a major evacuation with about 2.5 million ordered to leave.

      At a morning press briefing, Gov. Ron DeSantis said road shoulders will be opened if sustained highway speeds drop below 40 mph, an attempt to head off the hours-long congestion that impeded evacuations during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

      The state is also mobilizing rescue teams, shelters and other resources as it readies for what’s expected to be a major hurricane when it makes landfall, pushing a significant storm surge. Wind speeds are now expected to be between 125 and 130 mph when it makes landfall.

      “Safety is paramount when you're talking about storm surge like this,” DeSantis said. “That water is a very, very difficult adversary. You do not want to put yourself in harm's way.”

      Read more here.

      Miami-Dade officials: Stay off roads if possible. County services to close Wednesday and Thursday

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 12:43 PM EDT

      Miami-Dade County is under Tropical Storm Watch as Hurricane Ian makes its way closer to Florida. Forecasts show an estimated 3 to 8 inches of rain is expected in the region between Tuesday through Thursday.

      At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava warned residents of inclement weather — including strong winds and flooding. Miami-Dade is already experiencing wind and rain.

      "Miami Dade County may experience tropical force winds with potential tornadoes in the area. And a storm surge watch is in effect for lower parts of Miami-Dade County, with likely flooding due to high tides. There is also potential for storm surge along the eastern coast," said Levine Cava.

      Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins represents South Miami-Dade. The area saw major flooding in June after torrential rain.

      "Our message to our residents in South Miami-Dade County is to get prepared and to be alert. We're going to have wind gusts up to 57 miles per hour, not sustained, but flooding is going to be likely to occur in our same area in south Miami-Dade County. We do have a number of pumps on hand ready to be deployed in the event that the flooding occurs again," said Cohen Higgins.

      County officials are recommending that people stay off the roads, if possible. Now is also the time to have your hurricane plans in place.

      Levine Cava says out of an abundance of caution, nonessential county services will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, including libraries and parks. Public transit and Miami International Airport will remain open.

      Miami Beach to open parking garages for residents

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 11:25 AM EDT

      The Miami Beach Parking Department will open nine public garages to residents who want to keep their cars out of flood-prone areas tonight. The garages will be available at no cost to residents starting 5 p.m. Tuesday until 8 p.m. on Thursday.

      The following parking garages will be made available: 200 7 Street, 512 12 Street, 1301 Collins Avenue, 1557 Washington Ave., 640 17 Street, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., 1900 Bay Road, 340 23 Street and 400 West 42 Street. The garages at the Miami Beach Convention Center (1901 Convention Center Drive), 5 Street and Alton Road (550 Lenox Ave.) and City Hall (1755 Meridian Ave.) will not be available.

      The city said residents will need to provide proof of residency upon leaving the garages.

      NHC 11 a.m. advisory: Landfall shifts slightly south of Tampa Bay area

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT

      Hurricane Ian’s first bands are lashing Florida ahead of west coast landfall

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 10:30 AM EDT

      Two days out from landfall, Florida was already feeling Ian’s first gusty, rainy bands. While any future small shifts in the track make a difference for who sees the worst of the winds, the major threat for Ian is water. And the amount could be disastrous in some places.

      In its 8 a.m. Tuesday forecast, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Ian is expected to bring historic levels of storm surge — potentially up to 10 feet above dry land in Tampa Bay — and up to 24 inches of rain for the west central Florida region. Florida’s entire west coast could see devastating storm surge and intense rain for several days as the storm slows to a crawl along the coast.

      South Florida was already seeing street flooding Tuesday morning, and officials urged residents of the Keys to take shelter as tornado warnings popped up. A tropical storm watch was issued for parts of inland Miami-Dade and Broward as well as all of Palm Beach.

      Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

      As Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida is bracing for a damaging Category 4 storm

      Posted September 27, 2022 at 10:00 AM EDT

      Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane before it hits Florida on Wednesday.

      Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday in Cuba's Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba's main tobacco-growing region.

      The U.S. National Hurricane Center said "significant wind and storm surge impacts" were occurring Tuesday morning in western Cuba. Ian sustained top winds of 125 mph as it moved over the city of Pinar del Rio. As much as 14 feet of storm surge was predicted along Cuba's coast.

      After passing over Cuba, Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph before making landfall again. Tropical storm-force winds were expected in Florida late Tuesday, reaching hurricane force Wednesday morning.

      Read more here.