Hurricane Ian grew intensified into nearly a Category 5 hurricane with 155 mph winds Wednesday morning and made landfall in southwest Florida by the afternoon. It’s now headed for Central Florida.
Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties remain under hurricane warnings.
A tornado watch was in effect for Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia as well until 1 a.m. Thursday.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the hurricane was located inland near Punta Gorda about 120 miles away from Orlando with 140 mph sustained winds.
The path is reminiscent Hurricane Charley, which made a devastating landfall in Port Charlotte before cutting across the state including Orlando in 2004.
Hurricane-force winds extend out 50 miles with tropical-storm-force winds extending out 175 miles.
The updated consensus track keeps Ian a Category 1 hurricane south of Lakeland by 2 a.m. Thursday with 85 mph winds and 105 mph gusts, and then down to a tropical storm with 65 mph winds by Thursday afternoon after passing through Orange and Seminole counties parked near Florida’s East Coast in Volusia.
All of Central Florida including Orlando remain officially within the NHC’s cone of uncertainty.
“One thing for Central Florida is because we’ve had a lot of saturation, those trees are vulnerable,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday morning. “So you’re going to see trees are going to come down even with tropical-storm-force winds. It does not need to be hurricane-force. You are absolutely going to see that that is going to cause interruptions in power. And of course the sheer amount of rain that’s going to come down. It’s gonna have a major impact.”
Floridians need to keep track of changes in the track, which come every six hours from the National Hurricane Center, at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. The center also gives intermediate advisories between those forecasts with updates in sustained winds, direction and current location.
And impacts can occur outside of the cone of uncertainty, which is geared more toward where the center of the storm will potentially be.
Hurricane-force winds and tropical-storm-force winds can extend out 100-200 miles in many cases.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the NHC’s wind predictions are that Central Florida has a 100% chance it will see tropical-storm-force winds within five days.
Rainfall can also be an issue, as tropical storms can bring the threat of flooding, especially if they are slow-moving systems. The National Hurricane Center projects central west Florida will see between 12 to 16 inches, with local maximum amounts up to 24 inches.
Much of Central Florida has experienced above heavy rainfall over the past two weeks, which will increase the likelihood of flash flooding conditions with the anticipated heavy rain.
And the NHC is warning of tornadoes possible beginning Tuesday on the Florida peninsula as the outer bands of Ian make their way north.