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Hurricane Ian hits Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm

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Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm. This powerful tempest crashed into the coast with winds of 150 mph, and is tied for fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States. The storm caused extensive flooding and dangerous storm surge, with residents sharing videos on social media showing everything from water rushing into their homes to fires sparked by downed power lines. The federal government sent millions of meals and liters of water to Florida to distribute once Ian has passed, and President Biden promised to "help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida get moving again. And we'll be there every step of the way. That's my absolute commitment to the people of the state of Florida."

This article is being updated with the latest news and information on Hurricane Ian. All times are Eastern.

2:06 a.m. — Patients at the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte had to be evacuated after the storm surge flooded its emergency room and winds tore off part of the roof covering the intensive care unit, Dr. Birgit Bodine told The Associated Press. With water cascading down into the ICU, staffers had to quickly move the patients, including some on ventilators, to a different floor of the four-story hospital. Bodine told AP she is staying put until the morning, adding, "As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that's what matters."

1:47 a.m. — In southwestern Florida, 14 inches of rain in 12 hours "is considered a 1 in 1,000 year event," WFLA-TV chief meteorologist Jeff Berardelli tweeted late Wednesday. "Southern Sarasota County exceeded 14 inches in 12 hours. This recurrence is based on historical climate. But the climate has changed and these events will continue to happen more often."

1:32 a.m. — The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel tweeted footage shot after Hurricane Ian made landfall, sharing that his team spent more than five hours "in the eye wall" of the storm and "the back side was the worst. I haven't experienced anything close to this in over 30 years @weatherchannel."

1:10 a.m. — Officials in Naples are asking people to "not drive in or to" the city, as "half of the streets are not passable due to high water and tides may raise the water level further." An emergency curfew is also in effect in Naples.

12:45 a.m. — In Fort Myers, portions of the city are under three to four feet of water, the city government shared on Facebook late Wednesday. Officials are asking residents to conserve water and "please have patience as we do our best to reach all residents in need." Police and fire fighters are "responding to structure fires, extensive flooding, and some life-threatening conditions," the city said, and citizens can do their part by sticking to the curfew in place. "We need to ensure the roads are clear so that our first responders and our assistance crews can go out there and help everyone that needs us," the city said. "PLEASE, please, please stay inside."

12:16 a.m. — Preliminary totals show that in some parts of Florida, Ian dumped more than a foot of rain. As of Wednesday night, 14.42 inches of rain fell In Lehigh Acres in Lee County, the National Weather Service in Tampa said. Warm Mineral Springs was close behind, with 11.05 inches of rain. 

12:04 a.m., Thursday — Ian is now a Category 1 hurricane, with its maximum sustained winds at 90 mph. The storm is centered about 7- miles south of Orlando.

11:59 p.m. — In it's 11 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center said there is "severe and life-threatening storm surge inundation of 8 to 10 feet above ground level along with destructive waves ... ongoing along the southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor." Additionally, "widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding, with major to record river flooding, will continue across portions of central Florida tonight with considerable flooding in northern Florida, southeastern Georgia, and eastern South Carolina expected tomorrow through the end of the week." Looking ahead, the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday and Friday, there is "a danger of life-threatening storm surge" along the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, "with hurricane conditions possible."

10:56 p.m. – Ian has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, but that doesn't mean it's not still able to do damage. The storm's strongest sustained winds are at 100 mph, and the National Hurricane Center said it could cause "catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding." Hurricane Ian is moving northeast at 8 mph.

10:50 p.m. — There are now more than 2 million people in 12 counties across Florida without electricity, PowerOutage.us says. Florida Power & Light tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that "as soon as it is safe to do so, we will be on the ground and in the air assessing damage and deploying crews. We work around the clock to return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time."

9:47 p.m. — Nick Underwood, an engineer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Hunters, tweeted on Wednesday morning what it was like flying into Hurricane Ian. "I have flown storms for the last six years," he said, and this was "the worst I've ever been on. I've never seen so much lightning in the eye." He also shared a video showing what it was like on the aircraft in such bumpy conditions. Underwood returned to Twitter on Wednesday night to answer some questions about the flight, explaining that NOAA flies these missions "to collect critical data on the storm." The aircraft, called a WP-3D, was created for NOAA in the 1970s, and when it's in flight, "everyone is strapped in and we tie down/stow everything best we can," Underwood said.

9:09 p.m. — Ian made landfall in Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Officials there do not yet know how much damage has been done, but County Manager Roger Desjarlais told reporters "we are beginning to get a sense that our community, has been, in some respects, decimated." Several people in Lee County have reported being stranded in their homes due to high water levels, but because of weather conditions, it's "impossible to respond right now," Lee County Public Safety Director Benjamin Abes said. The best thing to do in this situation is get to higher ground, and in a home, that could mean moving up to the second floor.

8:03 p.m. — Ever wonder how zoo animals ride out a hurricane? Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg shared a picture on Twitter showing a flamboyance of flamingos in a bathroom. "We're hunkered down!" the botanical gardens captioned the photo. "Our animals are safe with staff on site to see them through the storm. The flamingos are having a hurricane party in the bathroom; eating, drinking, and dancing. Stay safe out there!"

7:33 p.m. — During an evening press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) reminded residents of the dangers they may face if they go outside to check on damage caused by Hurricane Ian. "In Hurricane Irma, there were seven fatalities directly because of the storm, and there were 77 that were a result of post-storm," DeSantis said. People have been killed by wading into deep water that's hiding downed power lines and the misuse of generators, and DeSantis asked people to "please, make sure that you're taking the proper precautions."

7:20 p.m. — Ian is now a Category 3 hurricane. Local officials in Tampa are asking residents to remain indoors, with Mayor Jane Castor saying there has been "somewhat of a lull especially since Hurricane Ian made landfall down in South Florida, so there may be the idea that we've been through the worst of it, it is yet to come for Tampa Bay. So we're asking everyone to shelter in place." There are downed trees across the city, and Castor said officials expect "that we're going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 8 p.m., and they're going to last throughout the night. We are still expecting widespread flooding throughout our city, and anywhere from tropical storm wind speeds to the possibility of Category 1 hurricane wind speeds."

7:11 p.m. — In Naples, there is widespread flooding, with water rushing into homes and businesses. On Twitter, users are sharing video taken at a Naples Fire-Rescue Department station showing firefighters wading through water to get into fire trucks and ambulances.

7:05 p.m. — Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said "tremendous damage" has occurred in Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach, and because the conditions are still dangerous, crews haven't been able to get into the streets to start removing debris. The county is under a curfew that began at 6 p.m.

6:35 p.m. — More than 1.5 million people across Florida are without electricity, PowerOutage.us reports. The extreme winds have knocked down power lines in several cities, including Naples.

6:28 p.m. Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa on the southwestern coast of Florida at 3:05 p.m. ET, in "exactly the same location [Hurricane] Charley did in 2004," The Weather Channel's Jonathan Erdman tweeted. "Unreal!" Both hurricanes made landfall with 150 mph winds, while Charley had 941 mb pressure and Ian had 940 mb pressure.

6:27 p.m. — Josh Morgerman with WeatherNation is in Punta Gorda, and tweeted video from the scene, saying Hurricane Ian's "backside seems stronger." He added, "Feels like the strongest winds of the day. Car jumping up and down."

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