MIAMI — Hurricane Ian’s projected path shifted to the south Tuesday and farther away from Tampa Bay, a heavily populated region highly vulnerable to storm surge flooding, but the storm was still shaping up as a potential wide-ranging disaster for Florida.
Much of the peninsula was under hurricane or tropical storm warnings. More than 2.5 million people had fled homes in high-risk coastal areas, some that could see storm surge up to 12 feet deep. Flash flood warnings were posted for South and Central Florida with up to 24 inches of drenching rains possible for days to come. Tornado watches were also issued for much of southeast Florida.
Two tornadoes touched down in Broward, wreaking havoc. Numerous planes at North Perry Airport were flipped or torn apart, and neighborhoods saw downed trees and sign posts.
In the rest of the state: Schools were closed in many counties. Orlando theme parks prepared to shut down. Massive power outages are likely.
In its 8 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday forecast, the National Hurricane Center said the most direct and damaging impact from Hurricane Ian is expected to be somewhere along the Gulf Coast between Fort Myers and Sarasota. Ian could come ashore as a Category 3 or 4 storm, packing 130 mph winds and possibly bringing historic levels of storm surge to the Sarasota area.
One of the Floridians evacuating was Jeff Carey, a 59-year-old mold remediation specialist who left his Venice home in the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park on Tuesday evening.
Carey has lived in this gulf shore community for more than a decade, and he’s seen the aftermath of hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, and he’s not taking any chances with Hurricane Ian. He knew that the water could rise high in his home.
“Just get out. Don’t stick around,” he said about an hour before evacuating to a friend’s sturdier building several miles inland. “If you’ve got any place to go, go. This is not a thing to mess around with. Very serious, and it’s like I said, it’s one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians in mandatory evacuation zones to heed officials and get out before it’s too late to leave.
“You don’t get a mulligan on this. It’s better to take the precaution and not have a significant impact than the reverse,” he said.