Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday at 3:04 pm on the western coast of Florida, a state which is home to some 660,000 – the third-largest Jewish population center in the United States after California and New York and home to thousands of Israeli emigres.
At least 233,545 customers were already without power as of 11 am, PowerOutage.us reported, but by 2 pm, more than 624,000 Floridians were without power, Fox News reported.
The breadth of the storm covered more than half of the state of Florida by 3 pm.
Yeshiva high school students learned their morning “seder” in partial darkness on Wednesday morning after Yeshiva Toras Chaim Toras Emes lost its electricity in North Miami Beach.
In Miami-Dade County, officials decided early Wednesday morning to suspend service for buses, Metrorail trains and vehicle rides for people with disabilities with the approach of the oncoming storm. Miami Beach Trolley and Freebee services were suspended and the Skyway Bridge was closed to traffic in both directions.
More than 2.5 million Floridians were urged to evacuate in the previous days leading up to the hurricane, but as the storm grew closer and the window for evacuation closed, officials began to warn residents to shelter in place.
The huge eye of the storm – 45 miles wide – crawled ashore moving at nine miles per hour. Although technically a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour the storm was just two miles per hour short of a Category 5 hurricane.
Naples, Sanibel Island, Venice, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Port Charlotte, Cape Coral and surrounds were all hit with torrential rains and whipping winds.
More than 70,000 residents in Sarasota lost power. Emergency vehicles were not responding to calls in Sarasota County.
In Charlotte County – home to nearly 187,000 people — officials suspended emergency response services shortly after 11 am due to the deteriorating weather conditions.
A tornado watch was in effect for Orlando, Vero Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, ABC News reported.
Key West was the first area of Florida to be hit by the oncoming hurricane. Seven people were rescued there by the US Coast Guard. The Barrier Islands, surrounded on both sides by waters from the Gulf of Mexico, were flooded.
#Breaking @USCG Sector #KeyWest crews assisted 7 separate people calling for help due to weather from Hurricane #Ian. It’s always safer to follow city, county evac recommendations. Check out the video below from one of the cases this morning where the i911 system was used. #SAR pic.twitter.com/zAzSDjOQNj
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 28, 2022
All around southern and central Florida, windows were boarded up and along the west coast, many people also placed sandbags around their doors in hopes of staving off possible flooding.
Just south of Kennedy Space Center, rain was falling at a rate of four inches per hour, according to coverage by Fox 35 News.
“This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come,” National Weather Service director Ken Graham told reporters at a news briefing in Washington DC. “It’s a dangerous, life-threatening storm surge.”
— Reed Timmer, PhD (@ReedTimmerAccu) September 28, 2022
Negative storm surge left hundreds of feet of exposed seabed in Ozona, just two hours away from low tide, ABC News reported.
Negative storm surge likewise sucked the water out of Tampa Bay, as happened five years ago during Hurricane Irma.
— John-Carlos Estrada (@Mr_JCE) September 28, 2022
At the Fort Myers beach, swimmers were seen getting into the storm surge as the hurricane approached but eventually even they reached the conclusion that they were not impervious to wild waves, and sought shelter. (see below)
New video just in from Fort Myers, FL shows swimmers getting into the storm surge as Hurricane #Ian approaches.
This is EXTREMELY dangerous. I can’t believe I have to say this…. DO NOT GET INTO THE WATER! pic.twitter.com/jsoUPvX8uC
— Zach Covey (@ZachCoveyTV) September 28, 2022
A little more than an hour later, Fort Myers was hit with the full brunt of the storm.
*RARE* first person view of storm surge. This camera is 6 feet off the ground on Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach, FL. Not sure how much longer it keeps working. You’ll see it live only on @weatherchannel #Ian pic.twitter.com/WwHtvgVxjY
— Mike Bettes (@mikebettes) September 28, 2022
The National Hurricane Center warned in a tweet, “Catastrophic storm surge inundation of 12-18 ft above ground level expected somewhere between Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor. Catastrophic wind damage is also beginning. . . Heavy rainfall will spread across the Florida peninsula through Thursday and reach portions of the Southeast US later this week and this weekend. Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida, southeastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina. Widespread, prolonged major and record river flooding is expected across central Florida.”