Hurricane Ian, “extremely dangerous”, hits Florida

Hurricane Ian, “extremely dangerous”, hits Florida

Hurricane Ian, classified as “extremely dangerous,” made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon after causing “catastrophic” flooding, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

At sea, poor conditions capsized a boat carrying migrants and the Coast Guard is still searching for 20 missing people, three of whom have been rescued and four others have managed to swim ashore.

With sustained winds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h) Ian landed along the coast of Cayo Costa in the southwestern state at 3:05 p.m. local time (19:05 GMT), according to NHC.

Wednesday’s hurricane caused “sea submersion, winds and catastrophic flooding across the Florida peninsula,” according to the center.

As of 4:30 p.m. (20:30 GMT), more than a million homes were without power, mainly in the area where Ian landed, according to specialist website PowerOutage.

In some coastal counties, a majority of residents were without power, according to the website.

The weather phenomenon has already devastated western Cuba in recent days and is then expected to move inland during the day and emerge over the western Atlantic by Thursday evening, according to the NHC.

– “Fear” –

The streets of Punta Gorda in the south of the state, where a few passers-by were still out and about at noon, suddenly emptied on Wednesday afternoon as the sky turned greyish and the showers intensified, AFP journalists saw.

Strong winds ripped off the branches of many downtown palm trees and even shook power poles, although the cyclone was still about forty kilometers from the city.

“Obviously, the closer he gets, the greater the fear of the unknown,” observed Chelsea Thompson, 30, who helped her parents secure their home in an evacuation zone southwest of Tampa on Tuesday.

In Naples, southwest Florida, images from the MSNBC channel showed streets completely flooded and cars adrift in the current.

The phenomenon of sea submersion could reach more than five meters along the coasts, according to the NHC, while between 30 and 45 cm of precipitation is expected in central and northeast Florida, and up to 60 cm of precipitation in certain locations.

“This is a storm that will be talked about for years to come,” NWS Director Ken Graham said at a news conference.

In the morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that Ian could land as a Category 5 hurricane, the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

“Clearly, this is a very strong hurricane that will have far-reaching consequences,” he said.

Evacuation orders were issued overnight for a dozen coastal counties.

The director of Fema (the federal agency responsible for managing natural disasters) reiterated that Ian will continue to be a “very dangerous” storm “for the coming days.”

Authorities are “preparing for the historic and catastrophic fallout that we are already beginning to see,” Deanne Criswell said prior to Ian’s landing.

– power outages –

Ahead of Ian’s arrival, Tampa Airport suspended operations late Tuesday afternoon, while Orlando did the same at 10:30 a.m. (2:30 p.m. GMT) Wednesday.

Hurricane Ian, then in Category 3, hit Cuba on Tuesday.

Two people were killed in the western province of Pinar del Rio, according to Cuban state media. The island and its 11.2 million inhabitants are completely immersed in darkness.

As the sea surface warms, the frequency of the strongest hurricanes with stronger winds and greater precipitation increases, but not the total number of hurricanes.

According to Gary Lackmann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the State University of North Carolina in the United States, several studies have shown a “possible link” between climate change and a phenomenon known as “rapid intensification” – during a relatively weak tropical storm Strengthens to a Category 3 or higher hurricane within 24 hours, as was the case with Ian.

“The consensus remains that there will be fewer storms in the future, but that the biggest ones will be more violent,” the scientist told AFP.


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