- Hurricane Ian reaches a catastrophic Category Four as it inches closer to the west coast of Florida at 10mph
- Devastating winds and flooding are expected, with top wind speeds of 140mph already recorded
- Governor Ron DeSantis warned residents in the areas predicted to be hardest hit that now is their last chance to get to safety
- Two have died and more than 11 million are without power on Cuba after the first strong winds of the powerful storm pounded its south coast late on Monday
- Photos show the extent of the damage left in the ‘extremely dangerous’ hurricane’s wake as it makes its way north toward the Sunshine State
- The address saw the Republican invoke a statewide state of emergency, and forewarn 21 million residents to ‘prepare for impact’
Ron DeSantis has warned that Hurricane Ian is ‘knocking on the door’ of a Category 5 storm and wants Floridians to prepare for ‘major impact’ ahead of making landfall with winds hitting 155pmh.
Hurricane Ian is battering Florida’s west coast as multiple tornados are sweeping waves of destruction through the Sunshine State.
The Category 4 storm is nearing Category 5 hours before it is set to make landfall in Florida, after leaving two dead in Cuba and decimating swathes of the island.
Tampa is bracing for 6ft storm surge before landfall this afternoon, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis telling those who have remained in the red evacuation zones that it is time to ‘hunker down’ and ‘prepare for the storm’.
DeSantis warned those in Collier, Charlotte and Sarasota county that it was ‘too late’ to leave and urged anyone still out on the roads to get to a ‘safe place as soon as possible.’
He added that Ian was ‘knocking on the door’ of a Category 5, and confirmed that 40,000 homes have already been reported across the state.
Officials have warned that the storm surge could reach 12ft, with deadly winds and flooding along the state’s heavily populated Gulf Coast from Bonita Beach to the Tampa Bay region.
Damages are expected to reach $45billion as the storm continues to grow in strength, as more than two million Floridians have been urged to evacuate.
Two people have already been rushed to hospital after a tornado hit an apartment building for people who are 55 years or older in Kings Point, Delray Beach, on Tuesday evening.
Large trees were tossed to the ground as parts of the building were completely torn and lifted with residents being evacuated as the tornado hit.
Another tornado hit South East Florida, with rain lashing down and footage showing a parking lot almost being flooded as palm tree’s swayed in the strong winds.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ian has exceeded previous estimations of top wind speeds of 130 mph and is centered about 75 miles from Florida and is moving north at a forward speed of 10 mph.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued dozens of coastal Florida counties, with voluntary evacuation recommended in several others.
Florida residents have rushed to board up their homes, stash precious belongings on upper floors and flee from evacuation zones.
More than 11 million in Cuba are without power after the initial winds of the powerful then-Category 3 storm pounded the island’s south coast late Monday into Tuesday, killing two and causing the electrical system to experience a total collapse.
Photos show the extent of the damage left in the ‘extremely dangerous’ hurricane’s wake as it makes its way north toward the Sunshine State – where meteorologists have warned that it should make landfall around 4pm.
As monster storm approaches US landfall:
- The hurricane warning covers roughly 220 miles of the state including Fort Myers as well as Tampa and St Petersburg, which could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
- Republican DeSantis spoke with President Biden by telephone to discuss preparations for the storm, according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
- Hurrican Ian is expected to make landfall late on Wednesday, with Charlotte County and Sarasota expected to be the worst hit
- Tom Brady has evacuated his family to Miami, as he and wife Gisele Bündchen packed up their things and travelled with their children from their Tampa Bay home
The Florida Power and Light Company reported 17,255 outages across several counties in Florida, as DeSantis confirmed that 40,000 properties have been left without power.
In Broward, there were more than 6,700 outages while there were 5,700 outages in Miami-Dade.
Tom Brady has evacuated his family to Miami, as he and wife Gisele Bündchen packed up their things and travelled with their children from their Tampa Bay home.
DeSantis, who invoked a statewide state of emergency Sunday, has prepared 30,000 workers on standby to help once Florida’s power grid inevitably topples in Ian’s wrath.
Florida officials earlier declared a state of emergency across the state, with President Biden over the weekend invoking his own emergency edict for the Everglades State, delaying scheduled trip to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
Those orders have so far seen roughly 2.5 million Floridians ordered to evacuate their homes, as officials scramble to prepare for the storm’s now-inevitable US landfall – with the situation in Cuba serving as a stark warning of what may be to come.
Locals were told last night was their final chance to escape their homes ahead of Ian’s wrath. The Florida Keys have already felt Ian’s wrath as an early warning system for the mainland. Videos show palm trees battered by 60mphwinds and homes and businesses flooded by two feet of water.
‘You can’t do anything about natural disasters,’ said Florida resident Vinod Nair, who drove inland from the Tampa area on Tuesday with his wife, son, dog and two kittens seeking a hotel in the tourist district of Orlando.
‘We live in a high risk zone, so we thought it best to evacuate.’
Gil Gonzalez, another in the danger zone was not taking any chances. He boarded the windows of his Tampa home with plywood and laid down sandbags to guard against any flooding.
He and his wife packed their car with bottled water, torches, battery packs for their mobile phones and a camp stove before evacuating.
‘All the prized possessions, we’ve put them upstairs in a friend’s house,’ Mr Gonzalez said.
After first bracing for the rapidly burgeoning storm Monday night, thousands of Cubans awoke to their houses destroyed and neighborhoods flooded – with more than 11 million without any electricity.
Airports in Tampa, St Petersburg and Key West have closed, and Disney World theme parks and Sea World in Orlando have also closed ahead of the storm.
A couple from England on holiday in Tampa found themselves faced with riding out the storm at a shelter.
Glyn and Christine Williams, from London, were told to leave their hotel near the beach when evacuations were ordered. Because the airport shut down, they could not get a flight home.
‘Unfortunately, all the hotels are full or closed, so it looks as though we’re going to be in one of the shelters,’ Christine Williams said.
Her husband insisted all would be fine.
‘You know, you got to go with the flow,’ Glyn Williams said. ‘So we’re quite happy doing what we’re doing.’
The precise location of landfall was still uncertain, but with Ian’s tropical storm-force winds extending 175 miles from its center, damage was expected across a wide area of Florida.
Ian, while still a Category Three hurricane, had ravaged Cuba’s western regions for more than five hours early Tuesday morning. The storm took out Cuba’s power network and plunged the island into darkness, leaving it ‘without electrical service,’ state electricity company Union Electrica said on Twitter.
The hurricane proceeded to move out over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Insmet meteorological institute said – with areas of Florida now experiencing strong winds and flooding as the storm looms just 75 miles off-coast.
As millions of Floridians rush to make the necessary preparations, though, Cubans have already bore the brunt of the turbulent tempest, with many cities ripped apart by blazing 120 mph winds.
Only the few people with gasoline-powered generators had access to electricity on the island.
Others had to make do with flashlights or candles at home, and lit their way with cell phones as they walked the streets, photos show.
The state electric company Unión Eléctrica de Cuba had earlier said they would turn off power in the capital Havana to avoid electrocutions, deaths, and property damage while the island waited out the anticipated storm – however, the storm went on to cause the blackouts itself, throwing the entire country into disarray.
Compounding the situation is the fact that Cuba has been in an economic crisis since the early days of the pandemic, that has led to widespread shortages of food, fuel, and medicine.
The magnitude of this crisis, however, has yet to be seen in the country, and could lead to further protests against the local government.
In the western city of Pinar del Rio, footage showed downed power lines, flooded streets and a scattering of damaged rooftops.
‘Desolation and destruction. These are terrifying hours. Nothing is left here,’ a 70-year-old resident of the city was quoted as saying in a social media post by his journalist son, Lazaro Manuel Alonso.
About 40,000 people were evacuated across Pinar del Rio province – a tobacco-rich region in western Cuba – which bore the brunt of the storm, local authorities said.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it expects Ian to gain strength before hitting the west coast of Florida on Wednesday as an ‘extremely dangerous’ major hurricane.
Calls to heed evacuation warnings were echoed from local Florida officials on up to US President Joe Biden, who said Ian ‘could be a very severe hurricane, life-threatening and devastating in its impact.’
In its latest bulletin, the NHC said to be prepared for ‘life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding’ in the Florida peninsula.
Tropical-storm-force winds are already battering the Florida Keys, the chain of islands off the southern tip of the state’s mainland, the NHC said.
In Cuba, authorities are just beginning to assess the damage, but residents described ‘destruction’ and posted images on social media of flooded streets and felled trees.
At the time of impact, the NHC reported Ian’s maximum wind speeds at 125 miles per hour, making it a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Wind speeds have since dropped slightly to 120 miles per hour.
No deaths or injuries have yet been reported.