THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED
Hurricane Ian surged in strength overnight to become an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour that will cause catastrophic conditions across parts of Florida later today, officials said.
The National Hurricane Center said the eye wall of Ian was started to move ashore at 11 a.m. eastern time, with the center making landfall at Cayo Costa Fla., a barrier island near Fort Myers, at 3:05 p.m. Winds were 150 mph at landfall, the National Hurricane Center said.
“One important change is that Ian is likely to remain more intact as it crosses the Florida peninsula,” said Senior Hurricane Specialist Eric Blake, noting that storm is on the verge of attaining rare and exceptionally dangerous Category 5 intensity.
“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said the state has marshaled relief resources to react once Ian passes. Officials urged people to hunker down and stay off the roads.
In Key Biscayne, about 2,200 to 2,500 customers lost power in early in the morning, but about half had power restored by 8 a.m., said Fire Chief Eric Lang. Countywide, the number was about 18,500, according to Florida Power and Light.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center stress that Ian is a large storm whose path of destruction will be wide, with the highest risk being from Naples to Sarasota, where storm surges of up to 12 feet are forecast. After landfall, it will cross central Florida, where new hurricane warnings have been posted from Sebastian Inlet, north of Vero, to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
Six to eight inches of rain are forecast for the Keys and South Florida, with 12 to 18 inches predicted for central and northeast Florida. Record river flooding is also forecast. Tornadoes could continue to spawn today; at least two touched down in Broward County last night.
In Key Biscayne, additional rainfall of 2 to 4 inches are forecast on top of rains that have already fallen, bringing totals to 6 to 8 inches.
On Virginia Key, the weather station at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School recorded a gust of 54 miles-per-hour around six a.m this morning. Rainfall totals more than five inches were observed since the start of the storm. King Tide in Key Biscayne is set for about noon.
There were multiple reports of flooded streets throughout the day yesterday, but no initial word of rescues. Public works crews had made extra sweeps of the island’s storm drains in preparation of Ian, but said the system was fully inundated because of the King Tide.
Key Biscayne remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, and schools and government offices on the Key and across South Florida are closed today. Village Manager Steve Williamson declared a state of emergency, which eases procurement rules and grants some additional administrative powers.
Despite the weather, many businesses remained open, including the Winn-Dixie and Golden Hog markets.
Charities have already set up sites for donations to storm victims. The Key Biscayne Community Foundation partnered with the Miami and Coral Gables foundations to create a Disaster Resilience Fund.