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8:21 p.m. | U.S. Postal Service suspends mail delivery in SWFL
The U.S. Postal Service Florida 2 District has announced a temporary suspension of mail delivery and retail operations in Central and Southwest Florida until further notice due to the approach of Hurricane Ian. The safety of our employees and our customers is a priority for the Postal Service.
6:20 p.m. | RSW to stop operations at 9 p.m.
Southwest Florida International Airport announced all operations will cease at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
All airlines have canceled their flights for Wednesday. Airport officials said some carriers have tentative plans for resuming flights on Thursday; however, it will depend on weather conditions.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Airport spokesperson Vicki Moreland said the airport had been preparing for the storm and would update the public on any incoming flight cancelations or delays.
6:10 p.m. More than 200 arrive at Estero shelter
James Williams, 75, pushed a cart of two soggy trash bags of clothes and blankets into the Estero Recreation Center on Tuesday evening.
He evacuated from his mobile home in Bonita Springs. “It’s not safe,” he said. The last bad hurricane for Southwest Florida -- Hurricane Irma -- was fresh in memory. He was living in another mobile home park at the time and lost his belongings to storm damage. “They put everything in a dumpster.”
There were nearly 250 people at the Estero Recreation Center by around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a shelter manager.
5:13 p.m. | Ian's track shifting more toward SWFL
The forecast for the eyewall of Hurricane Ian has moved a little closer to the Fort Myers area, and meteorologists are calling this a dangerous storm that could cause more impacts locally than Charley, Wilma or Irma.
Those three hurricanes have set the mark for this coast in recent decades. All were major hurricanes and made landfall in Lee or Collier counties.
Storm surge is expected to be the biggest threat, and meteorologists are calling for upwards of 12 feet of surge.
4:34 p.m.: Lee schools to stay closed through Thursday
The School District of Lee County announced Tuesday afternoon that its schools and offices will be closed through Thursday. It also said it will evaluate its instructional calendar to determine what dates will be used as Hurricane Make-up Days.
3:38 p.m. | Fort Myers on 'the bad side' of Hurricane Ian
The east side of a hurricane is the worst in terms of wind speed, storm surge and overall power.
And the latest National Hurricane Center forecast shows the storm making landfall in the Punta Gorda area, just to the north of Lee County.
“It really depends on the forward movement and in our case; it’s the stronger side because as the storm is spinning, it spins counterclockwise and the momentum is greatest on the east side of the storm,” said Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. “With storm surge, especially on our coast, if you were to take a storm and have the strongest storms on the east side, it pushes the water onto land and it has nowhere to go.”
Davis said Hurricane Ian will likely have more impacts than Hurricane Charley (2004), Hurricane Wilma (2005), and Hurricane Irma (2017).
“It’s going to be a very dangerous storm and people in Southwest Florida will remember this one for a long time,” Davis said. “This is a serious situation and everyone needs to take it that way.”
Davis said, by comparison, the eye of Charley was about 10 miles wide. The eye of Ian is 40 to 50 miles wide, he said.
3:15 p.m. | Lee expands mandatory evacuations to parts of Zone C
Lee County officials have now called for mandatory evacuations for parts of Zone C in north Cape Coral and in North Fort Myers west of I-75.
Many parts of north Cape Coral are not in Zone C so check Lee County's website to see what zone your address lies within.
Residents in these areas, along with all of Zones A and B, are asked to leave their homes ahead of Hurricane Ian's arrival.
3:10 p.m. | Uber offering free rides to and from shelters
Ride-hailing service Uber announced Tuesday it will expand its free rides to and from state-approved evacuation shelters to include Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties.
On Monday, it offered the same to residents in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, and Pasco counties. Uber customers wanting the free ride should type "IANRELIEF" into the promo code when reserving an Uber ride.
2:25 p.m. | Insurance checklist before the storm strikes
Insurance coverage will be a big deal with Hurricane Ian tracking toward Southwest Florida.
Now is the time to review a checklist of things you should do for insurance purposes before the storm hits.
1:10 p.m. | All Lee County Publix stores to close at 6 p.m.
All Publix stores along the west coast of Florida from Key West up to Weeki Wachee, including all stores in Lee, Collier, Hendry and Charlotte counties, will close at 6 p.m. Tuesday and reopen at normal business hours Friday, Sept. 29.
1:05 p.m. | Cape Coral mayor: Ian could be 'catastrophic'
Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter said predictions of five to 10 feet of storm surge could be “catastrophic” in some areas of the city.
“We cannot take this storm for granted,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “This is a major hurricane with some catastrophic possibilities for our community.”
“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Lee County issued mandatory evacuations for anyone living in Zone A and Zone B, which includes flood-prone portions of Cape Coral.
12:50 p.m. | Lee, Collier counties postpone high school football games
The Lee and Collier County school districts announced that football games will not be played on Friday with Hurricane Ian expected to make landfall later this week.
"Since teams cannot safely prepare for a game at the end of the week, all our Friday night games are postponed," Lee County School District spokesman Rob Spicker said in an email.
The tentative plan in Lee County is for the games to be played on Monday, according to Spicker. However, games will only be played on Monday if the teams have been able to hold three practice sessions leading up to the game.
11:55 a.m. | Hertz Arena among shelters now open in Lee County
Jacki Reed paced outside the emergency evacuation shelter set up at Hertz Arena Tuesday morning. She was first in line and had stacked blankets, clothes and more in a laundry basket, ready to go as soon as the doors opened.
Shelters have opened across Lee County and residents are trickling in as Zone A and B are under mandatory evacuation orders.
Mary Cook, the Hertz Arena shelter operations manager, said the shelter was open and ready to receive evacuees. More than a dozen county and Hertz employees helped to prepare the arena as a shelter, shoveling sand into sandbags and stacking them around entrances and exits to keep the water out.
11:10 a.m. | Projected landfall for Ian shifts closer to Lee County
Hurricane Ian is plowing its way up the Gulf of Mexico after it emerged from Cuba and into open waters early Tuesday, and it's headed more toward the Fort Myers area.
The 11 a.m. National Hurricane Center advisory calls for tropical storm conditions in Lee County, with upwards of 24 inches of rain in localized areas.
Conditions are expected to deteriorate throughout the day and last for 36 hours or more.
Tropical storm force winds are likely for the Lee County area, and hurricane-level winds could push onshore during heavy rain bands, meteorologists say.
Storm surge had been predicted to be 4 to 5 feet above sea level for the Fort Myers area, but that figure has been raised to 8 to 12 feet.
High tide at 2.7 feet above sea level will hit the Sanibel Lighthouse at 1:56 a.m.
10:50 a.m.| Cape Coral declares state of emergency
City manager Rob Hernandez declared a state of local emergency for Cape Coral earlier today, and Lee County issued a mandatory evacuation for Zone A and Zone B, which includes a majority of Cape Coral.
Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter said residents should start evacuating.
"I advise our residents who are going to shelter to please find a friend or a relative or hotel outside of the evacuation zones, that are clearly listed, or to go to one of our local shelters," Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter said at a press conference today. "This is a very serious storm, and I ask our community to please take this storm very seriously."
10:25 a.m. | Punta Gorda braces for Ian, 18 years after Charley
Eighteen years ago, Kevin Doyle rode out Hurricane Charley in his Punta Gorda pub and watched as Category 4 winds blew away the roof above his head.
“It was harrowing,” Doyle said. “It was terrifying.”
The storm which made landfall on Aug. 13, 2004, destroyed half of Celtic Ray Public House. And the rest of Punta Gorda didn’t fare any better, taking a direct hit and suffering the worst damage in Southwest Florida.
Doyle remembers walking around downtown Punta Gorda afterward and seeing the destruction. The storm caused $3.2 billion in damage in Charlotte County and left about 11,000 of Punta Gorda’s homes and 300 of its businesses destroyed.
10 a.m.| Server problem slowing access to leegov.com
UPDATE 12:30 p.m. | The issue that was slowing access to Lee County's website earlier this morning appears to have been resolved.
Lee County is aware that people are having trouble accessing its website: leegov.com.
According to the county, a problem with one of its servers is causing the site to load slowly or not load at all. County information technology staff is working to install a substitute device.
9:20 a.m. | Lee County issues mandatory evacuations for Zone A, Zone B
Lee County has expanded its mandatory evacuation orders for all of Zone B.
Lee County officials announced mandatory evacuation orders for portions of Lee County Tuesday morning, citing storm surge and flood projections as Hurricane Ian's projected path shifted a bit closer to Southwest Florida.
All of Zone A is under a mandatory evacuation order. That generally includes islands and coastal areas such as Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Matlacha and Bonita Beach. A part of Zone B south of Veterans Parkway in Cape Coral is also under mandatory evacuation.
People who live in mobile homes and manufactured homes are also part of the evacuation order.
Shelters will open at 9 a.m. at the following locations. Only the listed shelters are opening at this time. All shelters are pet-friendly:
Dunbar High School
3800 Edison Avenue
Fort Myers, FL 33916
East Lee County High School
715 Thomas Sherwin Ave.
Lehigh Acres, FL 33974
Estero Recreation Center
9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd.
Estero, FL 33928
Gateway High School
13820 Griffin Dr.
Fort Myers, FL 33913
11000 Everblades Parkway
Estero, FL 33928
Island Coast High School
2125 DeNavarra Pkwy.
Cape Coral, FL 33909
Oak Hammock Middle School
5321 Tice Street
Fort Myers, FL 33905
South Fort Myers High School
14020 Plantation Road
Fort Myers, FL 33912
Varsity Lakes Middle School
801 Gunnery Road North
Lehigh Acres, FL 33971
Veterans Park Recreation Center
49 Homestead Road S.
Lehigh Acres, FL 33936
Hurricane Ian live updates: Live Updates: Hurricane Ian's path, predictions and Florida Gov. DeSantis' latest
6:20 a.m. | Lee County closures, cancellations due to Ian
5:05 A.M. | The latest on the track of Hurricane Ian
According to Tuesday's 5 a.m. advisory by the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian's maximum winds have increased to 125 mph, making it a Category 3 storm. It is moving north near 12 mph as it continues to strengthen.
A turn to the north-northeast in the direction of Southwest Florida and a reduction in Ian's speed is expected tonight and Wednesday.
The NHC extended the hurricane warning south to Bonita Beach, meaning hurricane conditions are expected in Lee County as Ian inches closer.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from Ian's center and tropical-storm-force winds present up to 115 miles from the storm's core.
Hurricane shelters: Hurricane shelters in Lee County: Location, addresses for all 19
Cape Coral: Cape Coral residents brace for Hurricane Ian
State of emergency: Lee County declares state of emergency as Hurricane Ian approaches
Helpful hurricane resources and links
Need to prepare for a hurricane? Here's what you should have in a disaster supply kit
Hurricane preparedness list: If a storm is coming, here is what you need to do now
Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones: What’s an invest and why do they keep saying tropical cyclone?
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Hurricane Ian Updates: Fort Myers, Florida storm path, flood potential