Hurricane Ian Downgraded to Tropical Storm, Expected to Gain Strength From Atlantic And Hit South Carolina

Fallen tree in Sarasota, Florida due to winds from Hurricane IanFallen tree in Sarasota, Florida due to winds from Hurricane Ian
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Several regions of Florida have experienced torrential rain and flooding. Forecasters predict the now-downgraded tropical storm will gain strength from the Atlantic, becoming a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall in coastal South Carolina.

Early Thursday morning, Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm after leaving destruction in its wake. 

In addition to hours of strong winds and heavy rain, Central Florida residents are navigating downed trees, power outages, and significant flooding, according to local weather reports.

The central and southwest parts of the state are seeing massive flooding, damaging people's homes and blocking residents' ability to travel, including the destruction of the Sanibel Causeway, according to local reports.

According to Fox 4, the extent of the damage is not currently known, but Florida Power & Light reported 952,400 customers without electricity in Sarasota, Lee, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Hendry counties.

According to local reports, there are many still waiting to be rescued after being trapped due to flooding and the total number of fatalities is not yet known.  

Hurricane Ian made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida, near Cayo Costa around 3:05 p.m. ET Wednesday as a strong Category 4 hurricane with winds close to 150 mph, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

However, current forecasts are predicting that after crossing over the Atlantic, the storm will gain strength and move back to a Category 1 storm before making landfall in South Carolina, resulting in a hurricane warning for the coastal part of the state, according to NPR.

Gulf Coast

The NWS in Tampa posted an “Extreme Wind Warning” for much of Charlotte County until 12:45 a.m.

“Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to an interior room or shelter NOW!” the warning reads.

“Catastrophic storm surge along with destructive waves are expected along the southwest Florida coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor. Residents should urgently follow evacuation orders in effect,” the NHC posted on Twitter around 11 a.m. 

Central Florida

According to the NWS, much of Central Florida was under a tornado watch until 5 p.m Wednesday.  

Forecasters predict significant flooding and hurricane-force winds to hit Central Florida, and a flood watch continued for the entire East Central Florida region through late Thursday night.

Outer bands of Ian have already produced several tornadoes and multiple tornado warnings as they have moved up through the state overnight. 

Other Coastal and Inland counties

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, several coastal and inland Florida counties were under hurricane warnings, including Volusia, Brevard, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk and Lake, according to the NWS. 

Eight to 15 inches of flooding was expected in the Central region of the state, extending from Melbourne to Lake Kissimmee. 

“This amount of rainfall will cause major flooding for portions of the area, especially for locations that have already received high rainfall amounts over the past 7 days,” a statement from the service reads. 

“Creeks and rivers that are already approaching bankfull will overflow, leading to substantial flooding. Urban locations and low-lying areas are especially vulnerable with inundation of major roadways and flooding of structures possible.”

For updates on school closures in the area, visit the Florida Department of Education's site. Florida has also activated its toll-free hotline for up-to-date information regarding Hurricane Ian at 1-800-342-3557.

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