On Wednesday, a Monster Hurricane Ian walloped Florida blasting down the southern US state’s coast with extreme wind and rain, and causing ‘catastrophic’ flooding from destructive storm surges.
Dramatic TV footage which was obtained by Africa Daily News, New York showed churning water which was submerging roads and sweeping away vehicles as the hurricane edged close to landfall near Fort Myers and Port Charlotte.
Ian, an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm, was destined to affect several million people across Florida and in the southeastern states Georgia and South Carolina.
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The storm was already ‘causing catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding in the Florida peninsula,” the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.
As hurricane conditions spread, forecasters warned of a looming once-in-a-generation calamity.
Ian could already have had deadly consequences off the coast as US Border Patrol said 23 migrants were missing after their boat sank. Four Cubans who survived swam to shore in the Florida Keys.
The NHC said Ian was bringing sustained winds of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour, just two mph shy of Category 5 intensity — the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Africa Daily News, New York reports some 2.5 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders in a dozen coastal Florida counties, with several dozen shelters set up, and voluntary evacuation recommended in others.
For those who decided to ride out the storm, authorities were stressing it was too late to flee and that residents should hunker down and stay indoors.
With conditions rapidly deteriorating, some thrill-seekers nevertheless were seen walking in the mud flats of Tampa Bay and further south at Port Charlotte’s Charlotte Harbor, ahead of Ian’s arrival.
With up to two feet (61 centimeters) of rain expected to fall on parts of the so-called Sunshine State, and a storm surge that could reach devastating levels of 12 to 18 feet (3.6 to 5.5 meters) above ground, authorities were warning of dire emergency conditions.
‘This is a life-threatening situation,’ the NHC warned.
The storm was set to move across central Florida before emerging in the Atlantic Ocean by late Thursday.