Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s central Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon, brining winds of about 155 mph and driving rain that began to batter the region shortly after daybreak and is expected to sweep across the state – in what is expected to be one of the most damaging Atlantic storms in U.S. history.
Officials said before the eye of the storm reached the coast that roughly 624,000 power outages had already been reported.
The storm on Tuesday raked across Cuba, knocking out the island nation’s entire power grid and leaving residents in the dark.
The storm’s top speed of 155 mph when making landfall was just below the threshold of being a Category 5 hurricane – the most dangerous classification. A Category 5 hurricane has winds of at least 157 mph.
Already, at least 50,000 power outages have been reported in in just Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, per the Tampa Bay Times.
“This is a major, major storm,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a morning press conference in which he warned residents to continue to prepare for the worst. “I urge you to be cautious.”
“It is going to have major, major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding,” he said, per USA Today. “So this is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days.”
DeSantis also detailed what his administration has done to get ready, including activating thousands of National Guard troops and opening roughly 200 shelters, hurricane preparedness he called “unprecedented.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities were searching for 23 migrants from a boat that sank off the coast of Florida earlier that day, according to CNN. Moreover, the evacuation remains incomplete with at least 43 people still stranded on the barrier island of Gasparilla.