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Ian now a 'monstrous' Cat 4 hurricane, and forecast to make Florida landfall soon

Alex Harris and Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — Ian strengthened early Wednesday into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with 155 mph winds just a tick below Cat 5 strength and a wind field that covered almost half of the state. The hurricane is forecast to whip most of Florida with catastrophic winds, flooding rain and life-threatening storm surge as it gets closer to a west coast landfall Wednesday afternoon.

The storm surge predictions soared overnight to 12 to 18 feet for Englewood to Bonita Bay, a forecast so high a new color was added to the National Hurricane Center’s peak storm surge prediction map.

Wednesday morning, Ian’s outer bands were already battering Southwest Florida with gusts up to 75 mph. South Florida saw tornadoes overnight that flipped small airplanes and took down big trees, and Key West recorded one of its highest ever storm surge levels overnight. Sea water still remained in many neighborhoods, including on sections of famed Duval Street and inside homes.

“The storm is here. It is imminent,” the state’s director of emergency management, Kevin Guthrie, said on the Weather Channel.

As of the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian had maximum sustained winds near 155 mph with higher gusts. To reach Cat 5, Ian needs to have maximum sustained winds of at least 157 mph.

Ian could still weaken before landfall but if not, it could rank among the most powerful storms to hit the United States.

 

Nine storms have reached Category 5 status while at sea but only four have made landfall at that strength in the U.S. — three of them in Florida. The most recent was Michael, which hammered the Panhandle in 2018. Andrew devastated South Miami-Dade in 1992 and an unnamed storm now known as the Labor Day hurricane swept the Florida Keys in 1935. Camille roared into the Mississippi coastline in 1969. All four of those Cat 5 hurricanes were tropical storms three days before landfall.

Ian was about 45 miles west-northwest of Naples and about 50 miles south-southwest of Punta Gorda, the hurricane center said in an 11 a.m. update. The storm was moving north-northeast near 9 mph, a slight slowdown.

Ian’s hurricane-force winds are expected to reach much of Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday morning, which has a hurricane warning in effect from Chokoloskee to the Anclote River, including the Tampa Bay region.

However, the storm is expected to slow down as it gets closer to Florida’s western coast, before making landfall Wednesday afternoon somewhere between Fort Myers and Sarasota as a powerful Cat 4 hurricane that NOAA called “monstrous.”

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