Hurricane Ian made landfall along the southwestern coast of Florida near Cayo Costa around 3:05 p.m. ET Wednesday with winds near 150 mph, making it a strong Category 4 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is delivering a catastrophic trifecta of high winds, heavy rain and historic storm surge to the state and is set to cause significant power outages and flooding as it moves at a slow pace across central Florida over the next day or two.
Hurricane Ian is tied for the strongest storm to make landfall on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, matching the wind speed of Hurricane Charley in 2004.
Already, over a million Florida utility customers were without power as of 3:45 p.m., according to PowerOutage.us. Officials in Cape Coral and Punta Gorda reported significant impacts, and the storm surge set records for the highest water levels ever observed in Fort Myers and Naples.
“The storm surge is very significant. We’re seeing cars and boats float down the street. We’re seeing trees nearly bent in half,” Frank Loni, an architect from California staying in Fort Myers Beach for the storm, said midday Wednesday. “There’s quite a bit of chaos on the streets.”
Water levels in Fort Myers have risen more than 6 feet over the past seven hours and still rising as strong winds continue to push water from the Gulf of Mexico ashore, according to CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller.
“I’ve been here since the mid-70s, this is actually – by far – the worst storm I have ever seen,” Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office, south of Fort Myers, reported people being trapped in their homes, according to the department’s post on Facebook. The Sheriff’s Office said it’s in “call triage mode” and getting numerous calls of people trapped by water.
“Some are reporting life threatening medical emergencies in deep water. We will get to them first. Some are reporting water coming into their house but not life threatening. They will have to wait. Possibly until the water recedes,” the post read.
To make matters worse, the Lee County’s 911 system is down and calls are be rerouted to Collier County Sheriff, according to the post.
“You can’t imagine the calls,” the post read.
The Olde Naples Seaport, a community of condos that overlooks the Naples Bay in southern Florida, has been consumed by storm surge, according to video shot by Graham Pederson. Pederson experienced knee-high water trying to escape.
In another video shot from the second floor, wind is seen whipping trees and trucks nearly submerged by the water. Pederson retreated to the second floor to wait out the storm, his brother-in-law Kyle Wendel told CNN.