“I wish this wasn’t a forecast I had to deliver,” National Weather Service Director Ken Graham said Wednesday as federal officials gave a dire update on Hurricane Ian.
“This is going to be a storm that we talk about for many years to come,” he said, adding that the majority of the state will be in Ian’s “crosshairs,” including inland areas.
Ian’s winds are as strong as 155 mph and extend 35 miles beyond the eye of the storm.
“It’s not just right there in the center. It’s a bigger impact from all this,” Graham said.
Ian will take 24 hours or so to move across the state after the eye of the storm reaches land, Graham said, setting up a dangerous situation for millions. Powerful winds and rain, on top of slow movement, could contribute to some places seeing up to 18 feet of storm surge and up to 2 feet of rain alone.
Even Florida’s east coast is expected to see some storm surge and strong winds, he said, and tornadoes will continue to be a threat, mostly in the front right quadrant of the storm.
Gail McGovern, CEO of American Red Cross, said nearly 500 Red Cross responders are ready and shelter supplies are prepared for 60,000 people. By the end of the weekend, she anticipates more than 2,500 Red Cross responders will be deployed.
“To everyone in the path of the storm: Please, please, please follow the evacuation instructions from your elected officials and your local officials,” McGovern said. “We know that for many of you, recovery from Hurricane Ian will likely be a very long road, and your American Red Cross will be there.”
FEMA has staged 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water ahead of landfall. 300 ambulances – the same used to help the state during the COVID-19 pandemic – are ready to assist.