Follow the storm as it hits Florida


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Floridians woke up Thursday to flooded homes and uprooted trees as mighty Hurricane Ian showered the Sunshine State with heavy rain and high winds after slamming into it as one of the strongest storms in history the United States.

More than 2.5 million homes and businesses in Florida were without power as of Thursday. Ian, which made landfall on the west coast of Florida as a Category 4 monster on Wednesday afternoon, has weakened to a tropical storm but is expected to continue roaring across the state for most of the day before heading for the Atlantic.

Emergency crews sawed down fallen trees to reach people in flooded homes. “If the line is busy, keep trying,” the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Thursday.

National Hurricane Center meteorologists said it would then turn northwest and strengthen to hurricane status before making landfall in South Carolina again.

The storm inundated entire communities, leaving residents stranded in their homes with sustained winds of up to 150 mph – just 7 mph from a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

The storm had already hit Cuba, killing two people and destroying the country’s power grid. No injuries or deaths were reported in Florida.

Latest developments:

► More than 2.5 million homes and businesses across Florida were without power as of early Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us.

►The US Coast Guard was still searching for more than 20 Cuban migrants after their boat sank in stormy weather near the Florida Keys.

► Ian’s strength on landing matched him for the fifth strongest hurricane when measured by wind speed to hit the United States, it is tied with five other hurricanes that have reached 150 mph – two in Florida, two in Louisiana and one in Texas.

► Residents described the terror after a tornado ripped through a condominium complex near Delray Beach, ripping off roofs and overturning vehicles. “I felt things blowing over my head and my face,” resident Jim Travis said. “When I opened the door, my apartment was destroyed.” Read more.

Quick links:

GET TEXT UPDATES: Sign up here for text updates on Hurricane Ian.

HURRICANE IAN TRACKING: Where is Ian going? See the map.

IAN FORECAST: Ian may spend days dumping rain on Florida. Here are the prospects.

Hurricane Ian tracking

As now Tropical Storm Ian continues to move through Florida on Thursday, USA TODAY’s The Hurricane Ian tracker will remain up-to-date and provide the latest insight into the direction of the storm.

Hospital roof partially ripped off, fire station flooded: Damage in Florida

Parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast suffered significant damage as Hurricane Ian swept through the state, damaging buildings and homes and inundating communities.

Water poured through the streets of Naples, creating giant waves that made roads impassable and flooded the city’s fire department. Video posted by Naples Fire-Rescue showed crews working to recover equipment and fire trucks from more than 3 feet of water. In Cape Coral, about 30 miles off the coast, photos showed a sailboat stranded in the middle of a road near homes.

Nearby Fort Myers experienced intense storm surge flooding coastal communities and the area around WINK News, a local CBS affiliate. Videos showed water reaching the windshields of cars in the studio parking lot and some of the storm surge that infiltrates the building.

Further north along the coast, an intense storm surge flooded the lower level emergency room of a hospital in Port Charlotte, while high winds ripped off part of the roof of its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

WHAT IS STORM SURGE?Explaining the Deadliest and Most Destructive Threat of a Hurricane

Water gushed from above onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some of whom were on ventilators – to other floors, said Dr Birgit Bodine of the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try and mop up the soggy mess.

Officials warned that flash flooding was possible across the state, which could lead to pollution and an overflow of radioactive waste.

SAFFIR-SIMPSON WIND SPEED SCALE:Break down the wind speed scale for hurricanes.

HOW HURRICANE IAN COMPARES:Category 5 hurricanes are rare. Ian’s punch the worst the United States has seen?

Contributor: Kate Cimini, USA Today Network-Florida; Associated Press




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