As Hurricane Ian nears the coast of Florida, the state is bracing for the worst. The storm has strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, but is still a potential Category 5 hurricane. It is expected to bring catastrophic winds, flooding, and life-threatening storm surges to the Florida peninsula. As of Wednesday night, the storm’s center was located about 60 miles west of Naples, Florida. CNN reports the storm has near Category 5 Strength.
While the National Hurricane Center has warned that Hurricane Ian could stall over the Gulf of Mexico, it’s now expected to move onshore late today and early tomorrow. Once the storm’s center passes over the area, it will then clear the Florida coast by late Thursday. Early this morning wind gusts were already reaching tropical storm force in Jupiter and Juno Beach Pier, while gusts of 42 mph were reported in Boca Raton. Meanwhile, thunderstorms rang tornado warnings across Palm Beach County, which remains under a tornado watch until 5 p.m.
As of Wednesday, the state had already activated 5,000 Florida National Guard members to assist with response operations. Another 2,000 guardsmen were activated as well, and urban search and rescue teams were prepping. Many residents were rushing to board up their homes, pack their belongings, and head to higher ground in anticipation of the hurricane. Some areas of Florida are also threatened by flooding, including the Suwannee River near Flamingo, the Dry Tortugas, and the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and St. John’s River.