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Hurricane Ian has reached top winds of 155 miles per hour, just shy of Category 5 status, as it moves toward Florida’s Gulf Coast.
High winds and heavy rain have already struck the region spanning from Naples to Sarasota as residents prepare for Ian’s full impact.
By early Monday, more than two million Florida residents were under evacuation orders. Later that day, the number rose to 2.5 million as the state’s leaders expanded the area based on updated projections.
As of Tuesday morning, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) warned that it was no longer safe for those in some regions to flee.
“If you are in any of those counties it is no longer possible to safely evacuate. It’s time to hunker down and prepare for the storm,” DeSantis said. “Do what you need to do to stay safe. If you are where that storm is approaching, you’re already in hazardous conditions. It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly. So please hunker down.”
Governor DeSantis Meets with Linemen Ahead of Hurricane Ian https://t.co/oHuRvpkL6N
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 28, 2022
Hurricane Ian shifted somewhat overnight, with the focus now slightly south of a direct hit on Tampa and St. Petersburg. The latest projections note that Fort Myers and the surrounding Lee County area could face a more intense impact from the storm.
Over 250,000 Lee County area residents are under mandatory evacuation. Authorities remain concerned, however, as many people have chosen not to leave the area.
DeSantis announced on Monday that 5,000 members of the Florida National Guard had been activated. An additional 2,000 National Guard members from other states were placed on standby alert.
Schools across several counties have also been closed, along with airports in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Key West. Theme parks in the Orlando area have also been shut down as a safety precaution.
The governor announced on Monday that more than 30,000 linemen have been staged and prepared to restore power ahead of projected outages and damage due to Ian. DeSantis met with linemen on Tuesday morning for further details in a live-streamed event.
In a Monday update, the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced the coordination of resources, including trucks of food and water along with generators and water pumps. So far, “160 truckloads (85 loads of water and 75 loads of MREs) are ready to deploy, with some of this supply already en route to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.” Preparation has also included offering 100,000 tarps to protect homes and allow more residents to stay at home rather than in a public shelter.
On Saturday, the governor expanded a state of emergency to all 67 Florida counties in preparation for Ian. The declaration has suspended all tolls in the Tampa Bay area to help people more quickly evacuate low-lying areas.
President Joe Biden also approved an emergency declaration for Florida on Saturday ahead of the growing hurricane threat.
Part of Georgia and South Carolina could also face flooding and damage from heavy rain and winds later in the week. Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) declared an emergency in advance, placing National Guard troops on standby.
This is a developing story and may be updated. Refresh or check back for the latest updates.