More than 2.5 million homes were without power in Florida amid catastrophic floods and life-threatening storm surge early Thursday, hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The international Evangelical relief group Samaritan’s Purse is preparing its disaster response teams to help clear debris from homes.
Ian’s winds weakened to 65 mph early Thursday, downgrading the system to a tropical storm as it moved over central Florida, but extremely dangerous conditions continued, according to The Weather Channel, which also said all hurricane warnings had been dropped but a hurricane watch extended from northeast Florida’s coast to Charleston County, South Carolina.
The storm made landfall on Florida’s west coast at about 3 p.m. Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, leaving over 2.5 million customers without power, mostly in the state’s southwest and central regions, according to PowerOutage.us.
About 90 minutes later, the hurricane made a second landfall, south of Punta Gorda with 145 mph winds, Fox Weather reported.
Extreme rain triggered significant flooding in parts of central Florida, The Weather Channel said.
Orlando had a record-breaking rainfall of 11.94 inches from 4 a.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Thursday, weather historian Christopher Burt was quoted as saying. Up to 14 inches of rain has already fallen in parts of the state.
The tropical storm was forecast to continue lashing Florida for most of Thursday before making a likely second landfall on the Atlantic Coast Friday.
Early Thursday, strongest winds were recorded along the coast of northeast Florida, where some gusts had topped 60 mph in Daytona Beach. Gainesville, Jacksonville and Orlando had gusts over 50 mph, and over 30 mph gusts had already worked their way along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina are bracing for the storm’s impact.
Over 10 inches of rain is possible, mainly in areas between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, Fox News said.
Samaritan’s Purse said it's mobilizing disaster response specialists and tractor-trailers packed with relief equipment to the affected areas.
The Christian relief organization, headed by evangelist Franklin Graham, said it's closely tracking the storm and working with local authorities and church partners to determine the greatest areas of need.
“Hurricane Ian is going to impact the lives of millions of people,” Graham said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. “We are praying for everyone in its path and already mobilizing our team to respond in Jesus’ Name.”
Samaritan’s Purse said it will need teams of volunteers from across the country to help families by mudding out flooded homes, tarping damaged roofs and clearing debris.
Early Tuesday, Ian made landfall southwest of the town of La Coloma in western Cuba’s Pinar del Río province, with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, NBC News reported, adding that, by the evening, the entire island was without power.